The relationship between Lionel Messi, talisman and symbol of FC Barcelona, and the club's board, reached a nadir on Tuesday when the Argentine informed his employers - by fax - that he wished to leave Camp Nou, for free.
Barca's record scorer feels he has been made a scapegoat for the team's poor performances in the recently concluded 2019/20 season, and wishes to bring to an end his near 20-year association at the club.
Messi, 33, believes he is entitled to leave on a free transfer, while Barca believe a deadline in his contract has passed and therefore any club wishing to sign him must buy him out of his contract for a cool €700 million (Dh3.039 billion).
Why does Messi want to leave?
The 33-year-old dropped a bombshell on Barcelona on Tuesday, informing them that he wants to leave the club immediately – and on a free transfer.
Messi, scorer of more than 630 goals for Barca, believes he and the rest of the squad have been unfairly targeted for the club's myriad problems, including the sacking of two coaches - Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien - a refusal to defer wages during the coronavirus pandemic, surrendering La Liga title to Real Madrid as well as a humiliating exit to eventual winners Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
A meeting with new coach, Ronald Koeman, was said to be the last straw after the Dutchman told Messi his club privileges - the Argentine has long been accused of holding too much power in the dressing room - were over.
Why did he inform the club he wanted to leave by fax?
It may seem strange in the world of technological wonder that we live in that most football transfer dealings are ultimately signed off by fax machine. Messi actually served notice of his desire to leave the Spanish club by burofax, which is in effect a recorded letter. Barcelona replied the same, telling Messi they want him to stay.
Why does Messi think he can leave for free?
A clause in his contract allows him to walk away for free so long as he communicates that decision. Barcelona believe the deadline for that clause to be applied has expired, as he had to inform them of his decision before the end of May. But, given the extraordinary circumstances of the 2019/20 season dealing with an unprecedented shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Messi’s camp, who argue that the extended campaign officially ended after Sunday's Champions League final, are set to argue that the deadline should be set on August 31.
What has been Barcelona's reaction to that?
Barcelona are yet to react publicly but they continue to insist that Messi is an important part of Koeman’s plans. The Catalans are sure to dispute Messi's representatives argument of an extended deadline and that if he is to depart his official price is €700m. Messi’s contract expires next summer, suggesting they would be forced to negotiate with potential buyers before the forward is able to speak with potential suitors in January 2021.
Can Messi and Barca kiss and make up?
You can never say never, but it does seem that the six-time Ballon d'Or winner and his two decade association with one of the world's biggest clubs is coming to a bitter end. Fans gathered outside the club's stadium on Tuesday to protest and demand the resignation of president Josep Bartomeu. No Barca president will want to be remembered for letting the most important player in the club's history, one who has guided the club to 10 Liga titles, six Copa del Reys, four Champions Leagues and three Fifa Club World Cups, leave on such bad terms. They say no player is bigger than the club. But in Messi's case, that theory has never applied, until perhaps now.