Lionel Messi's transfer move takes silly season to new level

European soccer's silly season got a late start this summer.

Usually, the transfer market wraps up at the end of August. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European season did not wrap up until Sunday when Bayern Munich beat Paris St. Germain in the Champions League final.

This year's silly season, which is just getting going, will be like none in recent memory. It will revolve around one question: where will Lionel Messi go?

After 16 seasons at Barcelona, the Argentine told the only club he has ever played for that he wants out.

Lionel Messi's Barca titles:
10 LaLiga
6 Copa del Rey
4 UEFA Champions League

Messi's decision came in the form of a burofax -- a service used in Spain to deliver certified email -- giving notice of his intention to leave the club, which responded with its own burofax -- responding that it wants to keep Messi.

What happens to Messi revolves around the interpretation of a clause in his contract -- written without a pandemic in mind -- allowing him to leave Barcelona as a free agent. The date the exercise the option expired was June 10, more than five weeks before LaLiga season actually ended because of the three-month break due to the pandemic.

Barcelona's position is that Messi missed the deadline, and he is still its player for one more season unless a suitor is willing to pay it 700 million euros ($827 million) to release Messi from his contract.

Messi has been unhappy with the direction of Barcelona under president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Barca exited the Champions League with an 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich, the third year in a row it collapsed in the tournament's quarterfinals. It followed a LaLiga season after which Messi blasted Barcelona as "weak" for blowing its lead over Real Madrid.

Within days of the Bayern loss, Quique Setien was out as coach and replaced by former Barca star Ronald Koeman, who has made it clear he will clean house, demanding the sale of Messi's longtime teammate and friend, Uruguayan Luis Suarez.

Where will Messi end up?

It's been suggested that Messi's demands are a move to force Bartomeu's departure and that of the current Barca board.

Few clubs could afford to pay Messi. Football Leaks released his compensation package -- salary, image rights, bonuses -- that put his earnings above 100 million euros ($118 million) a year.

13 comments about "Lionel Messi's transfer move takes silly season to new level".
  1. Paul Cox, August 26, 2020 at 6:45 a.m.

    If Messi had exercised the clause back at the end of May, whenthey still had both hopes of winning the league title and were still in Champions League, the club would no doubt have said that he was under contract until the end of the season AND that since the season wasn't over yet due to the Covid situation, he had to stay with them until they had no more games.

    Now they have hit the end of the season; he's exercising his clause.

    The other thing that's nonsense is the idea of a $700 million release clause. Spanish law allows for these release clausese (in fact, it more or less demands it) but the clause cannot be set at such a high price that it's essentially impossible to pay; if such a release clause is set too high, then the employee wishing to be released from a contract is allowed to take it to arbitration.

    The legal system will then evaluate the price of the release compared with the rest of the market; even for the Greatest Of All Time, it's not going to be set at an astronomically high price. Ronaldo sold for 100 million euros at the same age; Neymar went for more at a younger age; it's reasonable to assume that the legal system would say that Messi is worth somewhere in the range of 100-200 million euros.

    (I don't know if the time remaining on the contract plays into the arbitration math; if it does, then Messi might even go for less, since he never has more than one year remaining on his contract.)

    The reality is that Barcelona might not want to take it to the full arbitration, because the courts might hold that due to the force majeur of Covid, he's able to exercise his "walk away" rights for free.

    So it's entirely possible that this whole thing gets resolved by some club entering the situation that 
    A- is willing to pay him what he wants
    B- is someplace he is willing to play (at whatever salary level they offer) 
    and C- is willing to pay Barcelona at least *something*, say 30 or 50 million euros, so they don't drag it all out in the courts.

    Messi is probably stubborn enough to refuse to play for an entire season, so Barcelona have really colossally screwed this up, and they only have a limited time to get this fixed.

    They never should have given him a clause that lets him walk for free, and they never should have let him get to a point of only having one year left on his deal. And that's not even looking at what a rudderless mess the club has been for a while now in the sporting sense. 

    They were handed hundreds of millions in the Neymar sale and basically frittered it all away. Now they have serious issues with the team, they've got the stadium redevelopment pending during a massive economic disruption, and they're about to lose the GOAT on a free.

    I actually pity the club's board and leadership a bit. Some of this was their mistake but some of it was just a terrible confluence of circumstances.

  2. frank schoon, August 26, 2020 at 9:05 a.m.

    I haven't watched consistently Barcelona play since about 2016 for their quality of play has continued to go down since Guardiola left. I can understand Messi's frustration. And him staying with Barcelona, with new players , new system, and automatisms that take a year or take 2 is too evolve between the players. He has done it all , he should now enjoy the last few years..

    It's time for Messi to go! I only wish he would come to the MLS, and if it takes all the teams to contribute for him to come be it!!! We need someone in the league that is a few steps above what the current quality of players we have. We had Zlatan, now bring in Messi.

    Barcelona has been run into the ground in the last few years by an inept board of Directors. Few players are coming through their system and they are buying more and more players...Things have got to change there....

    We need Barcelona to come back to what made them exciting to watch world wide for I'm not happy  what I'm currently seeing develop in soccer develop which reflects more the run and gun garbage, again....

  3. beautiful game, August 26, 2020 at 11:35 a.m.

    Barcelona board has been comatose in player acquisition since the end of the 2016 season. It became a spender for outside talent and spent huge sums of money on too many players who had good reputations, but failed to fit in. That lost money would have better served its youth academy which had a fantastic track record. Likewise, I believe that coach Valverde's use of players and tactical decision-making process planning was highly suspect at crucial stages of competition. But the bottom line points to Bartomeu and his board for creating its own chaos and tunnel-vision incompetence.

  4. Kevin Leahy, August 26, 2020 at 3:22 p.m.

    If Barcelona were smart, they would force out their president, sell what they can & let Messi go. This is a club that needs a new direction from a new leader that has vision. Hiring Koeman was another mistake. The leadership wrecked this club and it tried to undermine any quality that was left. It is the end of an era in Spain not only for Barca but, the national team too.

  5. frank schoon replied, August 26, 2020 at 4:04 p.m.

    Kevin , can you explain to me why hiring Koeman was a mistake. He played for Barcelona on the "Dream Team", under Cruyff  at Ajax as well, he considers himself a follower of Cruyff philosophy of playing  and he's very familiar with Barcelona soccer and how they play. That would be the first qualifications that I would at look  when hiring a coach for Barcelona, someone who has played fos Barca, an ex Barcelona player who understands Barca way of soccer. 

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, August 26, 2020 at 6:13 p.m.

    Barca could come back with the right board and coach. They needed to plan for a post-Messi era years ago. That plan should be readily apparent now. What have they actually done? Nothing. 

  7. R2 Dad, August 26, 2020 at 4:56 p.m.

    I'm not so sure playing in the English Premier League is the right move for LM at this stage of his career. He only has a couple of years left--playing in a slower league like Serie A might save his body from all the wear and tear. Imagine the kind of roster jostling Pep would have to do to make budget, and then Messi gets injured in the first couple of matches.

  8. frank schoon replied, August 26, 2020 at 5:34 p.m.

    R2, don't forget City doesn't play English style soccer , they play a controlled ,possession game which obviates LM from having to run a lot. As a matter of fact I'm sure Guardiola sees LM only in an offensive role in the opponents third, like Cruyff did with Romario on the Barca's Dream Team.
     Cruyff stated to Romario ,' I want you for scoring, the rest you don't have to worry about, for I have other players taking care of the extra work load....

  9. R2 Dad replied, August 26, 2020 at 7:33 p.m.

    Yeah, Frank, but he's still going to get the snot kicked out of him by all those gigunda centerhalves and midfielders he has embarrassed over the years. Milner alone is worth a couple of cards, at least one red, given history.

  10. frank schoon replied, August 26, 2020 at 10:02 p.m.

    R2, he's played against big guys all his life like English ,Italian and Germans....what about  David Silva of City whom he played with at Barca,another munchkin. He seems to do just fine at City.

    He's too smart and too quick for those big centerback goons. I can't wait to see him play in England

  11. Kevin Leahy, August 26, 2020 at 5:38 p.m.

    Frank, I know he is a Baca guy but, don't think he is the guy for a rebuild. Make no mistake, the fans will not tolerate mediocre. While they can still attract quality he, was hired by a president that is on the way out. There is a reason why Xavi has spurned this job so far and I don't believe it is because he isn't ready. The circumstances are wrong for him under the present management. Wish Cruyff was still around! Maybe he could have had an influence on the decisions that have dragged them down. I believe Koeman has been set up for failure in this job.

  12. frank schoon replied, August 26, 2020 at 6:12 p.m.

    Kevin, I get what you say and I sort of agree with you. Xavi doesn't feel ready as yet. This is bad situation to jump into ,even for Koeman. But I do think they need a Barca man to coach and not an outsider....

  13. frank schoon, August 27, 2020 at 9:21 a.m.

    In Europe they are talking about Messi going to City, and then to NYFC in the MLS. Obviously it is the same group/owners. I would rather see Messi come direct to the MLS and skip City...The American fans deserve another "REAL" soccer player after losing Zlatan.

    I've had it with Barcelona and Messi....IT'S OVER... I want to enjoy watching Messi with a different team, watching Barca is the same old ,same old, every game...

    Barcelona needs to build up again which will take a couple of years and go through some rocky roads. They need to bring back a group of older retired Barca players and begin to get to work, again...They know what works and therefore are familiar with the program and 'game' plan to get started. This could be an interesting period for Barca to watch...

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