Lionel Messi was reportedly absent from Barcelona’s pre-season testing on Sunday as the forward continues to try to engineer a move away from the club.
First-team players were due to attend coronavirus testing ahead of a return to training from Monday as preparations for the 2020-21 season get underway.
Messi, who handed in a transfer request via burofax on Tuesday, is said to have no desire to begin pre-season preparations and, according to widespread reports, did not attend.
The 33-year-old reportedly wants to meet with the Barca board in person in order to arrange a transfer away from Camp Nou in as amicable a fashion as possible.
Messi, for his part, is said to think the clause in his contract that allows him to leave for nothing at the end of each season is still valid given the 2019-20 campaign was prolonged by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the board and president Josep Maria Bartomeu consider the clause to have expired and are thought to be unwilling to countenance selling Messi unless his €700million buyout fee is met.
Speaking at the presentation of Francisco Trincao, sporting director Ramon Planes insisted they wanted to keep Messi and rebuild the team around him under new head coach Ronald Koeman.
“You have to have enormous respect for Leo because of what he is and because of his history. We are not thinking about any contractual clause,” he said.
“Messi’s marriage to Barca has given both parties a lot, much joy to the fans and internally we are working to convince Messi, to find the best solution for Barca and for Messi.
“Barca has rebuilt itself many times throughout its history and has always come back strong. Our idea is to do it around the best player in the world.”
Manchester City, managed by former Barca boss Pep Guardiola, are considered the favourites to sign Messi should he leave the club he joined as a 12-year-old.
Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus are also said to be preparing offers for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.