Lionel Messi could be free to join Man City from as early as January if Barcelona press ahead with another round of staff pay cuts.
The Spanish club forced their players to take a 70 per cent deduction in their wages at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, with fresh negotiations now set to take place.
Messi was angered by the way Barca chiefs approached the previous cuts and that was one of the factors which contributed to him requesting to leave the club this summer.
Barcelona managed to keep hold of their captain due to a clause in Messi's contract meaning he cannot leave until it expires in June.
However, according to Marca, there may now be another option available to Messi.
Their report claims that Barca are looking to implement more pay cuts, with each department at the club now asked to vote for a representative to discuss terms on their behalf.
The club have given 15 days for a rep to be allocated, with negotiations then expected to last around a month, taking us up to the end of November.
Marca then claim that Barcelona staff are protected by law based on article 41 of the Workers’ Statute – a clause which professional athletes have used previously to terminate their own contract.
Such a scenario would allow Messi to tear up his Barcelona contract in January, or wait until June when his deal expires anyway.
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Man City are believed to be the front runners for his signature and were in talks with Barcelona over a deal until it was made clear Messi would not be allowed to leave on a free.
PSG and Inter Milan have also expressed an interest but Barcelona could still wiggle their way out of the above with careful decision-making.
One way would be to only force the pay cut on certain players – omitting Messi in the process – or the whole playing staff altogether, though that is where the greatest financial saving would be made.
Barcelona showed they are diligent with their legal processes when Messi demanded to leave in August so you'd expect they won't put themselves in a compromising position so soon after delaying the exit of their greatest-ever player.
Meanwhile, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is facing a vote of no confidence in the latest challenge to his leadership.
Where should Messi go next in his career? Have your say below.
A petition was set up just 24 hours after Messi handed in his transfer request, which called for Bartomeu to be replaced.
As ESPN reports, the campaign – called Mes que una Mocio – has racked up over 16,500 verified signatures, which is more than the number needed to oust Bartomeu from his position.
The club must now hold a vote within the next 20 days to determine whether Bartomeu should stand down, with a more than two thirds vote needed for him to be displaced.
Should that happen, a new election will be held, with Victor Font, Joan Laporte and Jordi Farre all planning to run for presidency.
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