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Lionel Messi: Barcelona forward misses training amid Manchester City interest

La Liga says Messi's release clause will have to be paid if he is to leave the Nou Camp; the 33-year-old's father expected to meet with senior Barca figures on Wednesday

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Lionel Messi did not turn up for Barcelona training on Monday, with the forward no longer considering himself a part of Ronald Koeman's squad.

Messi's father and representative Jorge is expected to meet with the Barcelona hierarchy, including president Josep Maria Bartomeu, on Wednesday to discuss his son's future.

The Argentine, who has played for the Spanish team for almost 20 years, informed the club last week he wants to leave.

A move to the Etihad would reunite Messi with former Barca boss Pep Guardiola
Image: A move to the Etihad would reunite Messi with former Barca boss Pep Guardiola

La Liga meanwhile has dashed his hopes of leaving Barcelona on a free transfer by stating his release clause will have to be paid if he is to leave the Nou Camp.

Sky Sports News has confirmed the 33-year-old has requested a meeting with senior figures at the club to resolve the impasse over his transfer request.

Messi, who has a buyout clause of €700m (£627m), has been tipped to move to Manchester City, where he could link up with his former manager Pep Guardiola.

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Messi’s father is expected to meet with the Barcelona hierarchy on Wednesday to discuss his son’s future

A move to the Etihad Stadium would also see him link up with international colleagues Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi, while Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan are also said to be preparing offers for the player widely considered to be one of the best footballers of all time.

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The 10-time La Liga winner and four-time Champions League victor has asked to activate his release clause that would end his contract, which is due to expire in June 2021, and permit him to leave for free this summer.

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Danny Mills explains why Manchester City could be the perfect fit for Lionel Messi

But Barcelona have clearly expressed this clause in his contract has already expired.

Messi's lawyers are arguing that - in the spirit of the deal and good faith - the clause is still active after the rescheduled Champions League final on August 23, which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since making his debut in the 2003/04 campaign, Messi has played 731 games for Barcelona, scoring 634 times in all competitions.

'Messi's head and heart aren't at Barca'

Sky Sports News' Gary Cotterill in Barcelona:

"Lionel Messi would not be able to train on Monday, even if he had a sudden change of heart, which seems unlikely. That's because he didn't turn up on Sunday for Covid-19 testing, which was his way of saying I'm not training any time soon.

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Sky Sports News reporter Gary Cotterill is outside Messi's house in Barcelona to give the latest on his desire to leave the Spanish club

"There's a softening in the stance of Barcelona it seems. Bartomeu has been saying all week that he's rejected any opportunity to meet with Messi's camp and find a way through this crisis but there is now going to be a meeting with Messi's father, Jorge, who flew into Barcelona on Sunday. We think that will be in around 48 hours' time at a neutral venue.

"But they're coming at this meeting from very difficult angles - Barcelona want Messi to sign a new contract and start again. Messi's team are saying, no, his heart and head are not here, he's made a decision - he wants out and, it would seem, he wants to go to Manchester City."

'Barca would lose more than they gain by keeping unhappy Messi'

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Barcelona need to compromise over Lionel Messi's decision to leave the club because they are in an 'extremely weak position', says Spanish football expert Graham Hunter.

Spanish football expert Graham Hunter:

"What's being argued is Messi's right to leave for free, later than was written into his contract. One part of his argument is that the season has been so torn up by the pandemic that dates are now moveable. His lawyers are saying Barcelona were informed of his desire to leave in the equivalent period of time after the season ended.

"Something has also been dug up from a couple of years ago where Bartomeu said clearly that Messi had a four-year contract that ended in 2021 but that he was free to leave for free at end time before the beginning of season 2020/21 and he went further by saying that Messi had earned the right to go where he wants.

"Without being a legal expert, I suspect Messi would have a strong case.

"Let's not make any bones about it: Messi wants to go to Man City.

"How will it end up? With compromise. I think Barcelona are in an extremely weak position. If they were to insist on him staying, I think they would lose more than they would gain. The idea of an unhappy Messi working under a hard hand in Ronald Koeman, during a season where it is imperative Barca gain back some credibility as well as money that they lost during the pandemic, seems ridiculous.

"The situation will probably end with compromise - money and players to Barcelona - and I think it will end in Messi playing in the light blue of Manchester City."

Can Man City afford Messi?

Sky Sports News' Ben Ransom:

"At every club, you'd be stupid not to be sailing close to the wind if you can generate the revenue, then you've got to maximise what you can spend. FFP is there to hold clubs like City back, which must be frustrating when they've got one of the richest owners in the world, and he just cannot spend the money he would like to on the football club. I understand his pain, because other clubs have been able to do that for 20, 30, 40 years.

"City do have assets. Raheem Sterling's a great example, they bought him for £50m, he must be worth £100m now - he's already said he might be interested in a move to Real Madrid. If at some point in the future, they have to sell someone like Raheem Sterling to finance the club going forward, they might do that.

"Every year their academy makes them anything from £10m to £40m in player sales, and we don't hear much about it because they're 18-19-year-old kids. That is a profit-making enterprise. They're very smart on that front and they maximise their income there.

"For everyone of them they've got a Phil Foden. What would he be worth in today's market? Even now, about £100m probably.

"They've got things in their favour, and from their point of view, they'll have the best legal and financial minds looking at this. If Juventus, a club who earn let's say £100m a year less than Manchester City, can afford a deal for Cristiano Ronaldo, then City in the richest league in the world can definitely afford, one way or another, a deal to sign Lionel Messi."

How well would Messi cope in the PL?

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Micah Richards, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher give their views on the potential transfer of Lionel Messi from Barcelona to Man City.

Can Messi really do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke? Or in Manchester for that matter? It is the perennial question which we may finally get the chance to answer.

The legendary forward would no doubt add an extra touch of class to the Premier League, but at 33, what can we realistic expect of Messi?

Read the full feature here

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