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Barcelona offer Messi path to stay in Catalonia

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Lionel Messi. Photo: AP

Lionel Messi. Photo: AP

Lionel Messi. Photo: AP

Lionel Messi has been given a clear pathway to stay at Barcelona after Josep Maria Bartomeu, the club's president, offered his resignation in return for their greatest player to remain at the Nou Camp.

Messi, 33, has informed Barcelona he wants to leave after almost two decades at the club, alerting Manchester City, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain that he is available to clubs who can afford a deal worth more than pounds £500m.

Bartomeu has made it clear he would stand down if Messi states publicly that he would stay at the club following the resignation.

Messi's situation has been viewed as a power struggle with Bartomeu's board, and the president's offer may change Messi's mind over staying to be part of new manager Ronald Koeman's rebuilding. Bartomeu's exit, however, would see the board remain until the next presidential elections, which are scheduled for March.

Staying at Barcelona would solve a potentially ugly legal battle over whether Messi has successfully triggered a clause allowing him to leave on a free transfer. The club say he has a £631.3m buy-out active, with the dispute concerning whether the post-season clause has moved following a delayed campaign due to the pandemic.

Without a free transfer, Messi would still command a world-record transfer fee and wages of about £100m a year before tax, which only the likes of City, PSG and Inter could afford. Some of Messi's former Barca team-mates also earned lucrative contracts in Qatar and Japan.

Supporters gathered outside Barcelona's stadium when news broke that Messi had asked to leave.

He played under City boss Pep Guardiola while at Barcelona and has maintained a good relationship. City have stuck to a clear transfer policy when it comes to refusing to overpay in the market.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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