Barcelona have broken their silence after Lionel Messi stunned the football world by telling the club via fax that he wants to leave on a free transfer.
The Spanish giants were left in disarray by Messi’s shock decision and president Josep Bartomeu has come under even more scrutiny for letting the fractious situation between the star man and the club’s hierarchy deteriorate beyond repair.
But during Francisco Trincao’s unveiling as a new Barcelona player on Wednesday, the club kept Bartomeu out of the firing line amid the deluge of questions over Messi’s future.
🔊 Ramon Planes: “We want to build a team around the most important player in the world”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 26, 2020
Instead, it was up to sporting director Ramon Planes to answer about Messi, insisting that the club are desperate for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner to stay.
Planes, who took over from Eric Abidal as sporting director this month, said: ‘We do not contemplate any contractual exit, because we want Leo to stay.
‘Internally we are working long hours to find the best solution for FCB and for Leo.’
He added: ‘This is evidently the important news, we have said many times, as (coach Ronald) Koeman and the president have said, we count on Messi for the future just like we count on Trincao as a talent for the future.
‘We hope he will play alongside the greatest player in history, the greatest player in the world, but these things happen and we hope we will come back stronger from the defeat at the end of last season.
‘What has happened has happened and our idea is to build a team around the most important player in the world.’
The sensational news on Messi emerged after he held crunch talks with new manager Koeman – who took over from Quique Setien following their humiliating 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Messi decided his time was up at the Nou Camp after he was told, according to Argentine news outlet Diario Ole, by Koeman at a meeting: ‘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.’
There could be chaotic times ahead at the Nou Camp as they desperately aim to resolve the delicate situation.
The 33-year-old Argentina superstar, who has attracted early interest from Manchester City, PSG, Inter Milan and more of Europe’s giant clubs, believes he is now a free agent but Barcelona insist he is tied to the club for another year and with a £629million release clause.
Josep Bartomeu has come under even more scrutiny after Messi’s shock decision on Tuesday
The last contract that Messi signed in 2017 allowed him to leave on a free transfer at the end of every season providing he gave notice of his intention to do so in the first 10 days of June.
When there was no news from Messi during the first 10 days of June this year, the club took it that the deadline had passed and he was now tied to another year at the club.
But Messi has a different interpretation. If his contract allows him to leave on a free at the end of every season, and this season did not end until August, then he believes he can go for nothing now, providing he informs the club – which he did do by sending the burofax on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Trincao was officially unveiled as a Barcelona player on Wednesday amid turbulent times for the club.
Trincao, who joined from Braga in a £26m deal, signed his contract at the Nou Camp on Wednesday with Bartomeu present before official photos were taken in the dressing room and on the pitch prior to his press conference.