January 7 – Manchester City, who reportedly courted Lionel Messi before the Argentine decided to stay on at the Nou Camp, have once again been placed on alert after Barca presidential candidate Agusti Benedito said the club’s prized asset is ‘likely’ to leave next summer.
“Keeping Messi would be the best news for the club but I am not very optimistic,” Benedito was quoted as saying amidst the Catalan giant’s much-publicised financial crisis.
Messi was under the impression that he could leave Barca on a free transfer last summer, hence the intense speculation about whether he was on his way to City to link up again with his old boss, Pep Guardiola.
Unfortunately for the six-time world player of the year, Barca thought differently, citing a clause in Messi’s contract that obliged him to inform the club of his intention before June 10. He didn’t do that, meaning that if he chose to leave without the required notice, any club chasing him would have to pay an eye-watering €700 million, his buyout fee.
The stand-off meant the situation could only be resolved if Messi took Barca to court to get his way which he didn’t want to do. But next summer things will be different.
“I think it’s really important that he stays, with the understanding that he understands the next two years we have in front us [could be difficult],” said Benedito. “He’s been here for 20 years – he’s a Barcelona fan and I think he’s sensitive to the situation.
“He has given us so much in the same way that Barcelona have given him a lot and it’s time for us all to roll up our sleeves.”
“But the truth is I am pessimistic. Remember that in August he said he wanted to leave after 20 years and now he’s still not cleared up what he wants to do. The most likely outcome I see is that he leaves us in the summer.”
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