Captain Lionel Messi has told Barcelona he wishes to leave the club immediately, a source confirmed on Tuesday.
The club source said Messi, who has spent his entire career at Barca, informed the club about his desire to leave by sending a burofax, a service used in Spain to urgently dispatch a document that requires proof to third parties.
The 33-year-old Argentine, who joined the club in 2000 as a youth player, has a contract with the Catalans until 2021.
The source said the club received a burofax from Messi’s lawyers declaring that the player, who has spent his entire career at Barca, wished to leave. A burofax is a service used in Spain to urgently dispatch a document through a certified email, which issues a digital certificate with legal validity.
The club subsequently sent Messi a burofax, stating they wanted him to stay and finish his career at Barca, added the source.
A second source added that the burofax Messi’s lawyers sent referred to a clause in the last contract the 33-year-old Argentine signed with the club in 2017 which allowed him to leave for free, a clause that expired on June 10 this year.
Under the terms of the contract which expires in 2021, the only way Messi can leave without the club’s consent is if a rival side pays his release clause of 700 million euros (629.7 million pounds).
“The club considers that the contract is fully binding until 30 June 2021,” added the second source.
The Argentine’s request to leave Barca comes a day after Spanish media reported that new coach Ronald Koeman told Messi’s close friend and strike partner, Luis Suarez, that he does not wish the Uruguayan to stay at the club.
Other reports said that Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal, Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic and French defender Samuel Umtiti have also been told they are no longer wanted.
Barca are in the midst of overhauling their squad following the 8-2 defeat by Bayern in the Champions League quarter-finals earlier this month, which condemned the club to a trophyless season for the first time in 12 years.
Messi, who has been named world player of the year a record six times, has grown increasingly unhappy in the last 12 months with how the club is being run under president Josep Maria Bartomeu.