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When non-competes get Messi

In business, just like in sport, any contract cast too wide risks falling down in court

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They think it’s all over: Lionel Messi was thwarted by contract. Photo: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

They think it’s all over: Lionel Messi was thwarted by contract. Photo: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Getty Images

They think it’s all over: Lionel Messi was thwarted by contract. Photo: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

The world of soccer was set alight when Lionel Messi, one of the greatest footballers of all time, showed an intention to end his contract with FC Barcelona prematurely. Messi joined the club aged 13, became its all-time top scorer and is one of the world's highest-paid athletes.

Messi is bound by a €700m release clause, commonly referred to as a "buy-out clause", which he signed in his four-year contract extension in 2017. However, a "free transfer" clause might have enabled him to move to a new club in the current window, without triggering the huge payout.

Although Messi has since confirmed that he will be staying with Barcelona, this news highlighted the importance of tightly drafted "free transfer" clauses and post-termination restrictions. In this article, we look at restrictive covenants for "top-talent" employees and consider what Irish employers should be doing to bolster the enforceability of such clauses.