Lionel Messi’s bid to force a switch to Manchester City is set to move up a gear this week when his dad Jorge meets with Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu.
Relations between the world’s best player and the fallen Spanish champions are set to sour further with Barca entitled to punish Messi for missing out on their return to training on Monday.
The 33-year-old snubbed Monday afternoon’s training session with new boss Ronald Koeman after missing the club’s coronavirus tests, conducted on Sunday.
But Barca know that if they punish their star man they could push the row beyond the point of no return.
Messi is digging in on his stance that he no longer needs to train at a club where he is no longer under contract.
His lawyers say that a well-documented clause allowed him to go for nothing if he asked by June 10 – but that the date is now irrelevant because of the coronavirus.
Without a coronavirus test he will not be able to train with his team-mates anyway – meaning he is unable to prepare with them for the new season.
Barca, meanwhile, have the support of La Liga who maintain Messi’s contract, which has a year left to run, is still enforceable with that staggering £623million buyout clause.
As such, Messi would still be the Spanish club’s captain and missing two instructions to join the team amounts to a serious offence in accordance with the collective agreement of the league and the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE).
Messi’s father Jorge is set to meet with Bartomeu on Wednesday when the situation is expected to become clearer.
But Messi’s cousin, Maximiliano Biancucchi Cuccittini, has urged Barca to allow him to go to Manchester.
Cuccittini said: “He has to find the place where he can be happy. If he was happy at Barcelona, he would have stayed there. He no longer has that happiness there and he wants to find a new direction. It’s his right to do so.
“I would like to see him in a team that plays well. I am passionate about good football.
“Of all the teams that have been suggested, I feel that Manchester City would be a good fit. Another would be PSG, but we are going to have to wait, and wherever he goes he will be happy and have peace.”