Lionel Messi, arguably one of the the greatest footballer in history, has formally asked to leave Barcelona this summer, throwing the Spanish club into extreme chaos.
According to reports in Argentina and Spain on Tuesday evening, Messi had sent a fax to Barcelona asking the club to allow him to depart, using a clause agreed in his last contract by which he can leave the Nou Camp for free.
Under the terms of the contract which expires in 2021, the only way Messi can leave without the club’s consent is if a rival side pays his release clause of €700 million (S$1.1 billion).
Barcelona’s board will meet over the next few days to decide what to do in what will be a defining decision in the club’s history.
Messi, 33, has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, scoring over 600 goal, winning ten league titles, four Champions Leagues, and six Ballon d’Ors.
His announcement comes 11 days after Barcelona’s humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals, which has led to an overhauling of squad and condemned the club to a trophyless season for the first time in 12 years.
The defeat brought a close to a season riven by uncertainty and discontent, igniting an internal crisis as Quique Setien was sacked and replaced by Ronald Koeman as manager.
Messi’s letter also followed reports that Barcelona planned to terminate the contract of his close friend and striker Luis Suarez.
His attempt to leave Barcelona could incite a legal battle between the two parties, with Barcelona saying they would seek advice over the activation of the exit clause in Messi’s contract.
If Messi is allowed to leave, a handful of super clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are touted as possible destinations for the player.
Messi has consistently aired his dissatisfaction this season with the club’s performance, both on and off the pitch, and has remained publicly silent since the defeat by Bayern.
Club president Josep Bartomeu recently said he was confident that Messi would finish his career with Barcelona, however, when Messi met new head coach Koeman last week, the Argentine reportedly said that he saw himself as more out than in.
Upon the news breaking, former Barca captain Carles Puyol backed Messi’s wish to leave the club by writing on Twitter; “Respect and admiration, Leo. You have all my support, friend.”