Lionel Messi is no longer able to walk away from Barcelona for free because the exit clause in his contract has expired.
The Argentine signed his latest renewal in November 2017 which runs until the end of the 2020-21 season. However, it included a break clause that allowed him to leave for free in summer 2020.
The good news for Barcelona is the clause expired on Saturday which means Messi will remain at Camp Nou for “at least another 12 months,” according to ESPN’s Samuel Marsden and Moises Llorens.
Indeed it’s likely to be longer too. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has already revealed plans to offer the captain a lifetime contract in an interview with the Associated Press.
Messi’s Exit Clause Explained
The clause in Messi’s contract was first revealed by Juan I Irigoyen and Ramon Besa at El Pais in September 2019 and came as a surprise. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu subsequently confirmed it was true and added: “Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol had the same clause.”
Barcelona team-mate Gerard Pique has since revealed he knew all about it and felt Messi deserved the right to decide what he wants to do with his future in an interview with Cadena SER.
“I already knew Messi is able to leave for free at the end of each season. But we all know the commitment Leo has to Barca and it doesn’t worry me at all. He’s earned the right to be able to choose what he does with his future after everything he’s given the club.”
Messi also spoke about his contract in February in an interview with Cristina Cubero and Fernando Polo at Mundo Deportivo and revealed he has had plenty of opportunities to leave but has turned them all down.
“Really I’ve always had that decision, not just because of the clause. A lot of times I’ve had chances to leave, a lot of clubs were interested and even ready to pay my clause but I never considered going and not now either. If the club want me, there’s no problem.”
Messi Set to Retire at Barcelona
The Barcelona captain now looks set to retire at the club he joined at the age of 13 from Newell’s Old Boys. The 32-year-old has previously said he would like to play for his boyhood club again before he hangs up his boots but knows it is now unlikely.
Instead, it seems as though Barcelona will be where he finishes his career. He told RAC1 in October: “I am becoming more and more clear that I want to retire here. Especially for how I feel about the club. Then, as a family, how happy we are here. For not changing my children’s friendships; I don’t want to break those.”
Messi will turn 33 in June but retirement still looks some way off. The Barcelona captain remains the best player in the world, having picked up his sixth Ballon d’Or in December. He will also resume La Liga action top of the standings for goals and assists in Spain despite missing the start of the season through injury.