Football: Messi can quit Barca, if Catalonia leaves Spain

Lionel Messi's contract signed in November runs until June 2021 and contains a €700 million euro (S$1.1 billion) buy-out clause.
Lionel Messi's contract signed in November runs until June 2021 and contains a €700 million euro (S$1.1 billion) buy-out clause.PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (REUTERS) - Lionel Messi could leave Barcelona without a transfer fee if Catalonia seceded from Spain and the club did not compete in any of Europe's top-four leagues, Spanish daily El Mundo said on Friday (Jan 5), citing a clause in his new contract.

Barca's all-time top scorer signed the contract in November, seven months before his old deal expired.

It runs until June 2021 and contains a €700 million (S$1.1 billion) buy-out clause.

But according to the El Mundo, it would also allow the five-time world player of the year to leave the club where he has spent his entire career for free if Catalonia's independence push resulted in Barca exiting Spain's top flight and not joining either the Premier League, the Bundesliga or Serie A.

A Barca spokesman declined to comment directly on the report but added: "In the interests of confidentiality, the club never comment on contracts signed with players and never will."

Messi's management team could not immediately be reached for comment.

The political crisis triggered by Catalonia's independence drive remains unresolved after separatists won a slim parliamentary majority in a regional election last month.

The Argentina international's latest contract was signed on Nov 25, before that vote but after an autumn referendum on independence that authorities in Madrid declared illegal, the Spanish government proceeded to dissolve the region's political institutions.

The referendum had direct ramifications for Barcelona who, on the day that it was held, chose to play their Oct 1 LaLiga game against Las Palmas behind closed doors in response to police violence against would-be voters.

The president of LaLiga, Javier Tebas, has repeatedly said Barcelona would be booted out of the Spanish league along with all other Catalan clubs in the event of independence, as only teams from Spain and Andorra are legally entitled to compete in the Spanish leagues.

Barca, who have won 24 LaLiga titles and lead this season's standings by nine points, said after the referendum they would not speculate on the future.

However, the club said they were "not planning for any other scenario than playing in the Spanish league, and the club is competing in this competition and wants to win it".