Josep Maria Bartomeu is ready to step down from his role as Barcelona president if Lionel Messi performs a U-turn on his decision to leave the club, sources have told ESPN.
However, various sources insist Messi’s decision is firm, so they believe Bartomeu will not need to act out any pledge to quit.
Messi stunned Barca on Tuesday when he told the club he wanted out. His decision sparked a wave of criticism toward Bartomeu, with fans gathering at Camp Nou, calling for him to resign. A vote of no confidence has also been lodged against him.
TV3 first reported on Thursday that Bartomeu is willing to quit if it will convince Messi to stay at the club. However, Bartomeu does not want to fast-track elections, currently scheduled for March, and would instead prefer to leave the club in the hands of the current board of directors.
The same sources reiterate that Barcelona’s stance is that Messi’s rights are not for sale, regardless of the interest from Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Messi has a contract until 2021 and a €700 million buyout clause.
ESPN revealed on Wednesday that City are the favourites to land Messi. Sources explained that City are prepared to offer a deal that could even see him end his career at partner club New York City FC and would possibly be able to spend up to €150 million on the transfer.
Messi sent a burofax to the club on Tuesday announcing his intention to leave this summer. He said he would invoke a clause that would allow him to leave for free.
The clause he referred to was included in his 2017 contract renewal and allows him to leave for free at the end of each season. However, he must notify the club within a certain time limit, which Barca say expired in June.
Messi, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, has considered leaving Barcelona before but has never previously taken his desire to leave to the club this far. He is conscious that at 33 he won’t have many more opportunities to add to the four Champions League titles he has already won, and he has decided he will have a better chance of more silverware elsewhere after a string of disappointments with Barca.
The Blaugrana last won the Champions League in 2015 and have since suffered a string of embarrassing exits. They gave up three-goal first-leg leads against AS Roma and Liverpool in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and were then thumped 8-2 by Bayern Munich in Lisbon last week. That has prompted plans for an overhaul of the squad at Barca that could include parting with Luis Suarez too. Sources have confirmed to ESPN that Suarez, Messi’s best friend at the club, will be allowed to leave this summer.
Meanwhile, Messi has also grown frustrated with the people in power at Barcelona, which many interpret to mean Bartomeu. Messi had a public fallout with former sporting director Eric Abidal earlier this year and criticized the board for attempting to put pressure on the players when they were negotiating a wage cut because of the coronavirus pandemic.
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