Barcelona wants face-to-face meeting to change Messi's mind

Lionel Messi has been offered a two-year contract extension by FC Barcelona, a club official with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

Soccer star's father/agent arrives in Spain for expected talk with club president

Police remove a Barcelona soccer fan from the Camp Nou stadium during a protest against the club's president Josep Maria Bartomeu, in Barcelona, Spain, last week. (Associated Press)

Barcelona is banking on a face-to-face meeting with Lionel Messi to try to convince him to stay.

Messi has been offered a two-year contract extension, a club official with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person is not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

The contract would run through the 2022-23 season. Both sides had already pre-agreed on most of the terms a few months ago, according to the club official.

Messi's father, Jorge, doubles as his agent and arrived in Spain from Argentina early Wednesday. He is expected to meet with club president Josep Bartomeu and other team officials, but it's unclear when then meeting will take place.

"I don't know anything," Jorge Messi said briefly after being questioned at the airport.

Spanish television station Cuatro later reported that Jorge Messi said it would be "difficult" for his son to stay with Barcelona. He did not elaborate.

Lionel Messi hasn't met with club officials since announcing his decision to leave and hasn't said anything publicly since Barcelona's 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals on Aug. 14. The defeat that capped a difficult season for the club, its first without a title since 2007-08.

The humiliating defeat on Aug. 14 capped a complicated season for Barcelona, the first without a title since 2007-08.

The 33-year-old Messi had been outspoken against club officials during the season and he hasn't shown up at the club since the squad returned to training on Monday. He also skipped the required coronavirus tests the team underwent on Sunday.

No-show for training sessions

Messi then invoked a clause that would allow him to leave for free at the end of the season, but Barcelona said the clause expired in June. Messi's staff is expected to claim that the end of the season was pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Neither side has yet to concede, with Messi not showing up for training along with the rest of the squad this week and Barcelona saying it will not facilitate his departure.

Barcelona reiterated its stance that it wants Messi to remain with the club and that it is not planning to negotiate his transfer. His contract ends in June 2021 and has a buyout clause of 700 million euros ($838 million US).

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said Messi's decision isn't "something that concerns us," but he hoped the rival player would stay with Barcelona.

"He has earned the right to decide about his future," Ramos said. "I don't know if he will be doing it in the best way, but of course, for Spanish soccer, for Barcelona and for us, who like to win while playing against the best, we would like him to stay. It makes the league and Barcelona better, and it makes the 'clasicos' more beautiful."

Messi's Barcelona teammate Frenkie de Jong said he was in the dark like everyone else.

"It's a kind of chaos now, many things are going on," said De Jong, who is with the Netherlands national team. "But I didn't speak with Messi personally, nor with the club. I will see when I arrive after this week in Barcelona how things are going, and what is really happening. Honestly I don't know what will happen."

Bartomeu first talked to Messi's father over the phone after the loss to Bayern and was told that Messi was frustrated and disappointed. They talked again a few times after Messi announced his decision to leave, but the first personal meeting between the two was expected to happen in the coming days.

The club hopes, though, that it can solve the problem by meeting with Messi in person and convincing him that the best decision for him is to stay.

Club president offers to resign

Messi, who has often said in the past that he wanted to finish his career with Barcelona, has not publicly expressed his reasons for wanting to leave. He never directly named Bartomeu in his criticism of the club, but the president said last week he was willing to resign if Messi cited him as the problem.

Barcelona said it was not talking to any clubs about a possible transfer but it was open to negotiating for the players who incoming coach Ronald Koeman said were not included in his plans, including Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Samuel Umtiti.

Ivan Rakitic, who also was in that list, was signed by Sevilla on Tuesday.

The three others have been training with the rest of the squad for now, including Suarez, a longtime teammate and friend of Messi. The club said there was no agreement reached yet for his transfer.

Barcelona will start the new season against Villarreal in the Spanish league at the end of September.

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