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FOOTBALL

‘Complete bombshell’: Messi tells Barça he wants to leave

Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona that he wants to "unilaterally" terminate his contract with the Spanish giants, a club source confirmed to AFP on Tuesday.

'Complete bombshell': Messi tells Barça he wants to leave
Photo: AFP

Lawyers for the Argentina star sent Barça a fax in which they announced Messi's desire to rescind his contract by triggering a release clause, sending shockwaves throughout the world of football.

However, the club maintains the clause expired in June and that he remains under contract until the end of the 2021 season.  

“In principal, this clause expired on June 10th, but the unusual nature of this season disrupted by the coronavirus opened the way for Messi to ask to be released from his contract now,” wrote Spanish sports daily Marca.

“It's the first step towards opening negotiations over his departure, on the basis of which his release clause amounts to 700 million euros.”    

Messi joined Barça's youth academy at the age of 13 and made his debut for Barça in 2004 as a 17-year-old.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner is the club's record scorer with 634 goals and has won the Champions League four times.    

But his future at Barça was thrown into doubt following a humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in Lisbon 11 days ago.

The humbling defeat sparked drastic changes within the club. Coach Quique Setien was sacked after barely six months in charge while sporting director Eric Abidal was also dismissed after Barça's first season without a trophy since 2007.   

Argentine sports daily Ole described Messi's wish to leave as a “complete bombshell”, but the Argentine has had regular disagreements with the club's board in recent times.

'More out than in'

According to Spanish media, Messi met with new Barça coach Ronald Koeman last week and told the Dutchman he saw himself “more out than in” the club.    

Since his appointment Koeman has reportedly told Luis Suarez he is no longer part of Barça's plans, delivering a similar message to Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti.

Bayern's demolition simply exposed Barça's ageing team for what Messi has been saying all along: they are simply not good enough.    

He said it in February and again in July, when a rant in the aftermath of handing Real Madrid the title turned into a brutal, but honest, assessment of their season.

As his relationship with the club hierarchy grew increasingly strained, Messi also reacted publicly when Abidal appeared to blame the players for the sacking of Ernesto Valverde in January.

He also led the fightback from the Barcelona players over a dispute with the board in March regarding pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.    

“Respect and admiration, Leo. All my support, friend,” tweeted Barça great Carles Puyol, a long-time former team-mate of Messi.    

“When you shut a tiger in a cage, he doesn't give in he fights back,” tweeted Vidal.

Messi's reported salary of nearly one million euros per week would limit the number of potential suitors, with Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan three clubs linked with an audacious swoop for one of football's all-time greats.

 

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FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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