Lionel Messi shocked the football world when he announced he wanted to leave Barcelona at the end of the 2019-20 season.
Messi’s desire to leave the Catalan side stemmed from the club’s poor performances, a lack of improvement in the squad, and tumultuous off-pitch politics.
In an exclusive interview with Goal, Messi revealed he had decided to stay as he wanted to avoid taking his beloved club to court – the only route available to opt out of his contract – but as his current deal is still set to expire in 2021, could he still leave the club on a free transfer?
Can Messi leave Barcelona for free in 2021?
As Messi’s current contract with Barcelona expires at the end of the 2020-21 season, he could still leave Camp Nou for free in the summer of 2021.
Messi’s contract buyout clause (or release clause) is €700 million (£630m/$825m), which was put in place when Messi signed a new four-year contract with Barcelona in 2017.
This clause, however, will expire at the end of his current deal, paving the way for him to join another club as a free agent.
In entering the final 12 months of his current deal, he will be free to speak with interested clubs outside of Spain starting from January 2021.
“I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not,” Messi told Goal.
“Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for La Liga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season.
“And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club. Now I am going to continue in the club because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700m clause, and that this is impossible.”
Manchester City is a potential destination for the Barcelona superstar, with Messi eyeing a potential reunion with former manager Pep Guardiola.© Provided by Sporting News Pep Guardiola, Lionel Messi
The Etihad side were reportedly front-runners for Messi’s signature last summer, with Man City believing they possess the financial prowess to sign the legendary forward.
The club’s chief operating officer Omar Berrada told the Manchester Evening News of previously being linked to Messi: “He’s an amazing talent, he’s somebody that can make a significant impact at any club in the world on and off the pitch immediately.
“He’s the best player in the world, he’s the best player of his generation. I think any club in the world would like to explore the possibility of him joining their team.
“The fact that it was commented that he wanted to come to play for City just shows you how far the team has come over the last years where the best talent of his generation and potentially saying he wants to come and play for us.”