Lionel Messi’s Contract Dispute with FC Barcelona

By: Jason Sancen

After another failed season by Spanish soccer team, FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi, their star player who is widely regarded as the best player in the world, was looking to jump ship.

In August of this year, Barcelona experienced yet another early exit from the prestigious UEFA Champions League, since the tournament that normally concludes in the spring had to be put on hold due to COVID-19. Despite this becoming a common occurrence for the club, the world was shocked when it was revealed that Messi, a member of the club for 20 years, would be leaving the institution he has been loyal to his entire professional career.[1]

Despite his desire to move to a team that can actually contend for international titles, the Barcelona legend was unable to do so.

The problem is that Messi is still under contract to play for Barcelona. However, his contract contains a clause giving him the option to leave at the end of any season until the termination of the agreement.[2] Messi tried to activate this clause in August after a demoralizing 8-2 loss at the hands of FC Bayern Munich, but Barcelona maintained that it was too late to do so because the season normally ends in June, even though it didn’t this year because of COVID-19.[3] Without triggering the clause, Messi could still leave, but it would be much harder since an interested club would need to pay 700 million Euros to terminate his contract with Barcelona.[4]

This was widely perceived by many as Barcelona deliberately making their talisman stay against his wishes. The public assumed that Messi would bring action to assert the validity and timeliness of the triggering of his release clause.

The applicable law in this matter would be Spanish law.[5] Although UEFA and FIFA are the governing bodies of the leagues Messi plays in with Barcelona, neither would be able to resolve a matter between the club and the player. This would leave the dispute in the hands of Spain’s courts.[6]

Messi believes that he was put in an unfair position, since triggering the release clause would allow any other club to sign him for free and avoid his hefty buy-out fee.[7] Unfortunately for him, it looks like he would have had to notify the club of his intentions before June, leaving him with two options: stay or engage in a likely drawn out legal battle with the club that helped him reach the pinnacle of the sport.[8]

Messi’s love for FC Barcelona is no secret, which is probably why he chose to stay put and not file a lawsuit against them for refusing to let him leave for free.

Lionel Messi will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever grace a soccer pitch. Fans have long believed that he would end his illustrious career at the club where it all started. Although this was a confusing blip in Messi’s award-laden history with the club, it surely will not diminish his status as an icon in the eyes of neither Barcelona fans nor soccer fans everywhere.

[1] Nate Scott, The Lionel Messi contract dispute and what it means for his future, explained, USA TODAY, (Aug. 26, 2020, 7:59 AM),

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Joaquin Maroto, Messi’s contract excludes FIFA and UEFA from legal conflict, AS (Aug. 29, 2020, 8:50 PM),

[6] Id.

[7] Nate Scott, The Lionel Messi contract dispute and what it means for his future, explained, USA TODAY, (Aug. 26, 2020, 7:59 AM),

[8] Id.

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