A former Barcelona president, Joan Gaspart, has insisted that captain, Lionel Messi, cannot leave the club this summer because the contract clause that would have allowed him departing the Blaugrana for free expired in June this year.
Gaspart explained that Messi would have to remain in Barcelona until June 31, 2021, when his current contract with Ronald Koeman’s side will expire before he can leave the La Liga giants.
Messi had on Tuesday, officially informed Barcelona of his desire to leave this summer.
The Argentine captain, who joined Barcelona in 2001, is keen for another experience, after playing all his career at the Catalan club.
But Gaspart believes if Messi leaves Barcelona for less than what his clause is worth, it will be more humiliating than the club’s 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the 2019/20 Champions League campaign.
Speaking with Marca, Gaspart, who was president of Barcelona between 2000 and 2003, said: “Messi cannot leave [now]. He will have to leave in 2021.
“I have seen the contract, and it is very clear. The clause ended in June and there is no going back.
“I prefer him to leave next year for zero than to go now for less than €700 million.
“The club is in charge here, not the player. The club paid the players. And this is not a matter of money, there is a signed contract, and that’s it.”
“I love Messi very much, but I love Barcelona more,” Gaspart added. “Let the clause be paid. They did it to me one night treacherously with [Luis] Figo, and I did the same with Rivaldo because I loved Barcelona.
“And here it’s the same. There is a clause of €700m, and the contracts are signed to fulfil them. I understand there is pressure from others for him to leave, but if I were the president of Barcelona, then I wouldn’t negotiate a euro.
“If Messi leaves for less than what his clause is worth it will be more humiliating than the 8-2 [defeat against Bayern Munich]. And Messi should not forget that the fans love Barcelona more than the player. And if Messi leaves next year, well, bad luck, he goes aged 34.
“Messi is loved a lot, and I hope he will enjoy one more year [at Barcelona]. I would rather him go for free next year than this one for €699m.”