Lionel Messi has been pictured back in Barcelona for the first time since he handed in a transfer request, with the Argentine superstar spotted having dinner with best friend Luis Suarez, who also faces the chop from the LaLiga club
Earlier this week, Messi sensationally told the LaLiga giants by fax that he wants to leave the club and is intending to trigger a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave for free this summer.
Should he walk away from Catalonia, it would signal the end of almost two decades at the club, where he has won three Champions Leagues and a host of domestic titles, as well as six Ballon d’Ors.
Barcelona intend to ensure that they receive payment for their star in the event that he leaves and have consulted with their legal team for advice, amid interest from Manchester City, PSG and Inter Milan.
And Messi was spotted leaving a restaurant in Catalonia and was shortly followed by with Barcelona pal Suarez on Wednesday evening, with the pair’s future at the Nou Camp uncertain.
The former Liverpool star was told in no uncertain terms by new coach Ronald Koeman that he is surplus to requirements at the Nou Camp, with the Dutchman looking to ring the changes at the club following their humiliating Champions League exit to Bayern Munich earlier this month.
Footage from El Chiringuito TV shows Messi leaving a restaurant in a black vehicle while Suarez followed in a separate vehicle.
The pair’s reunion comes after Suarez’s agent revealed that the Uruguyuan’s future is dependent on Messi’s next destination.
Suarez and Messi have been close friends since the striker moved from Liverpool in 2014, and the Uruguayan’s agent, Alejandro Balbi, says the Argentine’s next destination will determine whether Suarez will stay at the Nou Camp for the 2020-21 season.
‘Messi’s future will have an influence because they are best friends,’ Balbi told TyC Sports via Goal.
‘There is a lot of brotherly love between them; they are inseparable, always together.’
While together at Barcelona, Messi and Suarez have won the Champions League, LaLiga and the Copa del Rey. However, the club is currently in turmoil following the 8-2 hammering to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter finals earlier this month.
Potential suitors would have to fork out on the huge wages that Messi currently receives at Barcelona, too.
Messi’s fixed salary totals £64million (€71m) but bonuses for signing, for staying, and for winning trophies takes the figure well above that. Just by playing 60 per cent of games until the 2021 date when his contract ends sees Messi earn on average £95m (€106m) a season. But the potential – if he were to win the treble and win FIFA’s player of the year award – exists to push the final figure over the £110m (€122m) mark.
The Argentine’s relationship with club president Josep Bartomeu has hit rock bottom this season, with tensions spilling over into the public domain. Barca fans are unhappy with the president and stormed the Nou Camp gates to demand that he stands down amid poor on-field results and the Messi saga unfolding this week.