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‘Club officials wanted Messi out of Barcelona’

After a summer of uncertainty and acrimony, the true scale of unhappiness at Barcelona after Lionel Messi’s transfer request can be revealed.

An inside source at the Camp Nou has told FourFourTwo that some members of club staff were upset by Lionel Messi’s decision to stay in the summer, as it resulted in jobs being impacted.

The Argentina legend submitted a transfer request in August following the deterioration of his relationship with the Barça hierarchy, and in the wake of a humiliating 8-2 Champions League exit to Bayern Munich.

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However, he eventually opted to remain in Catalonia rather than get involved in a legal dispute over his release clause.

For the cover story of the December 2020 issue of FourFourTwo, available in shops and online now, Barcelona-based journalist Andy Mitten spoke to a string of figures at the heart of the issue, on and off the record.

As we got closer to the club, everything went off the record with people’s jobs at stake.

“We were upset when Messi decided to stay,” one professional – not a player – who works in the Camp Nou offices told us.

“Everyone was. We knew there would be more cuts and there were, simply to pay Leo’s wages.

“I love him and what he has done for our club and for football, but I love my family and having a job more.”

When Messi submitted his legally binding ‘burofax’ to inform Barcelona of his decision to leave in August, Manchester City were quickly linked with a move to reunite the Argentine with his former Camp Nou mentor Pep Guardiola.

The 33-year-old subsequently admitted that his unwillingness to take “the club of my life” to court convinced him to stay put, but he remained unhappy with his situation.

City director of football Txiki Begiristain said the Premier League club would “leave all options open” regarding a potential move for the forward in the future, but some believe that contact has already been made.

“There are so many strands to all of this,” reveals Manolo Marquez, a Catalan UEFA pro coach who managed top-flight Las Palmas in 2017.

“Messi didn’t feel comfortable with the board at Barcelona, and he made these views public when before he held back.

“I’ve no doubt that he spoke to Guardiola, the best manager he’s ever played under – but he has a contract, and a contract is a contract.”

Find out more about the Messi saga in your new FFT, out in shops online from Wednesday. Alternatively, grab it online with free delivery by selecting ‘Dec 20’ from the dropdown menu.

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