Lionel Messi-Barcelona tiff explained: The legal claims, what is burofax and possible destinations

Lionel Messi has officially expressed his desire to leave FC Barcelona having spent 19 years at the club. However, the whole affair is far murkier than it seems.

FP Sports August 26, 2020 14:30:14 IST
Lionel Messi-Barcelona tiff explained: The legal claims, what is burofax and possible destinations

Barcelona's Lionel Messi, right, walk onto the pitch for the second half of the Champions League quarterfinal soccer match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich in Lisbon, Portugal, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (Rafael Marchante/Pool via AP)

Signed by a napkin, could leave by a burofax.

That's the story of Lionel Messi, who has told lifelong club FC Barcelona that he wants to leave. The Argentine genius has had question marks over his future at Barcelona for a while, especially due to rising discontent with the club hierarchy and lack of success recently by extension. Time and again, the burden of getting the team out of doldrums has fallen on the 33-year-old.

Defeats to AS Roma and Liverpool, from a comfortable position, in the previous two Champions League campaigns paled in comparison to what came this year.

First Barcelona let their lead slip and saw rivals Real Madrid lift the league title before the hammering blow arrived in Lisbon. Bayern Munich smashed eight goals past a hapless Barcelona in the quarterfinals of the Champions League which meant a trophy-less season for the first time since 2007. It also marked the first time Barca had conceded eight goals since 1946. But what it also meant was Messi contemplating his future, to play his final footballing years elsewhere.

What is the situation at Barcelona presently?

Lionel MessiBarcelona tiff explained The legal claims what is burofax and possible destinations

A dejected Lionel Messi during the hammering by Bayern Munich in Champions League. AP

Fall out of the Bayern Munich defeat was almost immediate. The club promised an overhaul of the first team squad, manager Quique Setien was shown the door - just six months after being appointed. Sporting Director Eric Abidal left the club. Ronald Koeman was installed as the manager.

So, Barcelona have had Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino, Luis Enrique, Ernesto Valverde, Setien and Koeman as managers since Pep Guardiola built a dynasty. More worryingly at an institutional level, the club have been unable to find a suitable sporting director. Since 2014, when Josep Maria Bartomeu replaced Sandro Rosell as club president, Andoni Zubizarreta, Carles Puyol, Albert Soler, Raul Sanllehi, Ariedo Braida, Robert Fernandez, Jose Segura, Abidal and now Ramos Planes have held the role in some nomenclature or the other.

Club president Bartomeu spoke about Messi a week ago: "Messi wants to end his career at Barca, he has said that many times. I’ve spoken to Koeman about him and he has told me Messi will be the pillar of his project. Messi has a contract with Barca until 2021. I speak to him and his father regularly and they know that we have a solid project, that a new coach is coming and that he will count on him. Messi is untouchable and non-transferable. He knows it, we all know it."

At the time of his unveiling, Koeman had said, "I only want players who want to be here. I don't know if I have to convince Messi. I don't know if it's a yes or a no. Messi is the best player in the world and you want him on your team, not on your opponent's. For me, as a coach, I'd love to work with Messi. Because he wins you games. And if you can get out of him what he's proved he can do, I'd be delighted if he stayed. But he's a Barcelona player and he's got a contract. I need to speak to him, of course, he's the captain. Decisions need to be made but hopefully Messi stays here for years."

"I want to know what he Messi thinks. And then it's up to me to take decisions. But, again, Messi has a year's contract. But he's such an important player that any team would want him."

Five days ago, Messi spoke with Koeman and as per local radio station RAC1 he said, "(I'm) more out of the club than in it." And in the most recent meeting, to get clarity over Messi's future, the Dutchman said, “Your privileges in the squad are over, you have to do everything for the team. I'm going to be inflexible, you have to think about the team,” reports Olé.

And on Tuesday, it was (expected) chaos at the club. Messi informed Barcelona he wanted "unilaterally" to terminate his contract by triggering a release clause. The Argentine sent a 'burofax' to let his employers know he wants out. Barcelona, on their part, sent one back claiming they want him to continue and end his sporting career in Catalonia.

Wait. What is a burofax?

A burofax is a service provided by Spain's postal service (Correos) for sending documents where it is necessary to prove that the document was delivered and clarify the contents of said document. It is widely used where the sender needs to be legally prove that the recipient received the document on a given date and what the contents were. A court will accept the sender's receipt of delivery as proof the document in question actually was delivered.

Why did Messi use a burofax?

All in the timing. Messi and his team are relying on a clause in his contract that allows him to leave, if he so chooses, at the end of the season. That was understood to be 31 May, when contracts typically expire. However Messi's lawyers are arguing that with the season being extended due to coronavirus means that he had a longer period in which to break the deal.

Under this argument, Messi had to tell Barcelona he was leaving before the season ended – which his lawyers could argue was the end of the Champions League, with the final being held on 23 August. By using the burofax, Messi is able to prove he told the club on a certain date (said to be 20 August) that he was exercising his right to break the contract.

If the matter comes before a judge, which it likely will, Messi's lawyers will be able to use the burofax details to prove Barcelona were notified in advance. It thus rules out Barcelona's point that they either did not receive the letter, or that it arrived later and therefore Messi was too late in notifying them.

However, legally speaking Barcelona seem to be in the clear. Messi's contract would need him to notify the club 20 days prior to 10 June, 2020 (seen as 'end of the season'). Even if the final of the Champions League is taken as the close of the season, Messi didn't make his decision known 20 days prior to 23 August (the date of the final) but on or around 20 August.

What next for Messi?

Either way the possible legal battle goes, the situation is far from ideal. The club can't let Messi go for free and the likelihood of any club being able to stump up his release clause of 700 million euros is pretty low. Worth pointing now that the most expensive transfer in history was that of Neymar to PSG from Barcelona for 222 million euros.

The next club for Messi depends significantly on who can afford him. The transfer fees, if it isn't a free signing, would not be less than a 100 million euros, add to that the future wages. The midfield maestro is currently on a blockbuster 8.3 million euros a month or nearly 100 million a year. Not many can fork that exorbitant figure without bleeding money.

The real contenders are Manchester City (with former Barca manager Pep Guardiola in charge an added lure), Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Inter Milan and Juventus. Although, the likelihood of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi in the same team would be a marketing bonanza but not an ideal footballing setup.

If we go into it for the romance of the sport, Newell's Old Boys (Messi's boyhood club), Leeds United (with Marcelo Bielsa at the helm) and Napoli (a la Diego Maradona) would be the options.

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