The 33-year-old iconic forward shocked the world of football last week by putting in a transfer request at the LaLiga giants after a 16-year career which has see him score over 600 goals and win 33 trophies.
The Catalans were planning on making a serious effort to try and keep their talisman at the Nou Camp as the first-team squad return to pre-season training next week
But according to several reports, Messi has refused to take part in the squad’s COVID-19 testing scheme on Sunday which all players have to do before training begins again on Monday.
The striker was due at the Barcelona training ground just after 10am but did not show up at Joan Gamper training complex.
Luis Suarez, on the other hand, did turn up for the coronavirus tests despite reportedly being told by Ronald Koeman he is no longer required at Barcelona.
Other first-team stars, including Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Jordi Alba, were spotted turning up for the pre-season test. Arturo Vidal also showed up despite rumours he is set to leave the Camp Nou on a free transfer.
Koeman was also seen arriving at the Barcelona training centre as he prepares to enter his first season in charge of the side he won the European Cup with in 1992.
Messi’s camp had warned the LaLiga club that he was not going to appear on Sunday in order to try and force through a move to Manchester City.
It is believed that the 33-year-old will be weakened in the legal dispute with Barcelona should he continue to abstain from pre-season training.
LaLiga issued a statement of their own, adding another layer of intrigue to what is fast becoming one of the most complex transfer stories of the last decade.
A statement read on Sunday: ‘The contract is currently in force and has a “termination clause” applicable to the event that Lionel Andrés Messi decides to urge the early unilateral termination of the contract, carried out in accordance with article 16 of Royal Decree 1006/1985, of June 26, by which regulates the special employment relationship of professional athletes.
As Messi looks to link up with Pep Guardiola (right) at Man City, he is in a legal row with Barca
‘In compliance with the applicable regulations, and following the corresponding procedure in these cases, LaLiga will not carry out the prior visa process for the player to be removed from the federation if they have not previously paid the amount (£630million) of said clause.’
The Argentinian believes the disputed clause allows him to leave after the end of each Barcelona season on a free transfer.
Messi activated that clause on Tuesday believing he was within his rights to do so, but Barcelona insist that the clause expired on June 10, ten days after the 2019-20 campaign was supposed to finish.
The season’s end date was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic temporarily suspending all matches in Spain from March until June.
If Messi is not granted his free transfer, then Barcelona will look to get as much of his release clause – which stands at £630m – as they possibly can amid interest from Manchester City.
It is also rumoured that the Premier League side could offer a smaller fee but offer up to three players in exchange for Messi’s signature.
A move to City would see Messi link-up with former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola once again.