The Lionel Messi exit saga has taken a new twist as La Liga has said that the 700m euros (£624m) release clause in his Barcelona contract is still valid.
The Spanish league body revealed this in a statement released over the weekend.
Messi, 33, had informed the club on Tuesday that he wished to leave and did not attend a pre-season medical on Sunday.
The Argentina forward plans to invoke a clause that would allow him to depart the club for free but Barcelona argue the deadline for that has expired.
La Liga has now sided with Barcelona, saying it will not de-register the player unless the clause is met.
“In compliance with the applicable rule, La Liga will not approve a request to be de-registered as a player with the Spanish football federation, unless the amount in the release clause has been paid,” the body said in a statement.
Messi was due at Barcelona’s training ground at 10.15am local time on Sunday but did not attend.
The player’s lawyers plan to exercise a clause in his four-year contract, signed in 2017, which would have allowed him to leave the club for free if he had requested to do so by 10 June.
They will argue that date, nominally the end of the season, is now irrelevant after the coronavirus delays that led to the season’s extension and the team playing deep into August.
The Full Statement Below
With regard to the various interpretations (some of which are contradictory) published by a number of media outlets in recent days in relation to the contractual situation surrounding FC Barcelona player Lionel Andrés Messi, after having studied his contract with the club, LaLiga considers it appropriate to clarify that:
*The contract is currently in force and features a release clause to be applied in the event that Lionel Andrés Messi should decide to activate the early unilateral termination of the contract, vidpursuant to Article 16 of the Royal Decree 1006/1985 of 26 June, which regulates the specific labour status of professional athletes.
*In line with the regulations and procedure that apply in such instances, LaLiga shall not proceed with the release required for the player to be deregistered from the Spanish Football Federation unless the aforementioned clause has been paid.