Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi is now finally free to negotiate with foreign clubs with a view to a summer move. The 33-year-old looked set to leave for Manchester City before the start of the season, only for the Barca board and threat of a legal case to scupper his wishes, but will now be able to broker a switch.
It’s the big story on Spain and Marca’s striking front page on New Year’s Day is emblazoned with the headline ‘Messi is free to negotiate’, as one of the biggest transfer sagas in recent history sparks back into life.
The start of the January transfer window signals the fact that Messi’s bumper contract has just six months left to run – allowing clubs from abroad to swoop in now and seal a deal.
Both Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are believed to be interested in luring Messi away from the Nou Camp for the first time in his trophy-laden senior career.
However, Marca have also claimed that no decision has been made yet – and that the upcoming club elections will have no influence.
Reports in France indicated that the likely new PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino is keen to reunite Messi with former team-mate Neymar on the field.
It was claimed last month that the Ligue 1 giants are hopeful of making use of Messi’s friendships with figures at the club to fend off fierce competition from City.
The superstar looked destined to play under City boss Pep Guardiola once again last summer before the proposed switch fell through in unsightly fashion.
Barcelona were notified by an official burofax from Messi that the mercurial forward wished to leave. A clause in his contract, which he believed would have allowed him for free, was cited.
His club, however, were able to successfully argue that the move was requested after an elapsed deadline – forcing Messi to stay, or clubs to stump up his eye-watering £630million release clause.
AS have reported Messi went through ‘a real hell’ last summer and that all the signs point towards the Argentina international ‘looking forward to July to forget this last stage of Barcelona’.
Regardless of Marca’s belief that the elections will not prevent Messi from looking elsewhere, candidate Joan Laporta is hopeful of changing his mind.
The new chairman of the club will be unveiled this month, with Laporta as one of the heavy favourites, and he is confident of being able to table an inviting proposal.
“I think the most important thing is that Leo said he will wait for a new president to decide and, therefore, he would be willing to listen to Barca’s proposal,’ he told AS.
“They told me they would wait until the end of the season. I think that is very positive.”