A clause allowing Lionel Messi to terminate his contract with Barcelona expired Saturday, sources told ESPN's Moises Llorens and Sam Marsden, putting to rest fears that the six-time Ballon d'Or winner would walk away for nothing.
Messi had the right to leave the club if he communicated his decision before the end of May, according to Llorens and Marsden, but the Argentinian apparently allowed the clause to lapse.
His contract with Barcelona expires June 2021.
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has reportedly made it his mission to tie Messi to a new contract - potentially a lifetime deal - before leaving his post in 2021. Bartomeu is hoping to land one major target, either Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar or Inter Milan's Lautaro Martinez, to convince Messi of the club's competitiveness.
Messi insisted in February that he has no intention of leaving Barcelona - as long as the club wants him there. The 32-year-old also admitted he had turned down "many chances" to switch clubs in the past.
But Messi has been at odds with Barcelona for several months. He hit back at sporting director Eric Abidal after the former defender suggested the players were to blame for the firing of manager Ernesto Valverde.
Rumors of a move to Manchester City persisted despite the club's prospective ban from the Champions League. The turmoil at Barcelona had reportedly given City hope that they could swing a deal.
Tensions grew when Barcelona were negotiating pay cuts with players and staff at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Messi said he was surprised some officials would try to pressure the players into doing "something that we were always clear we wanted to do."
As rumors about his future intensified, Messi again denied he was leaving Barcelona. He rejected one April report that he and Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara were close to joining Inter as a "lie" and "fake news."
Now that La Liga has announced its return, Messi and Barcelona can concentrate on winning the league for a third consecutive season. They will return to action June 13 against Mallorca.
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