Football superstar Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona he wants to leave the club after spending nearly two decades with the Spanish team.
The club confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Argentine sent a document expressing his wish to leave.
Messi’s announcement comes 11 days after Barcelona’s 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals.
This is also Barca’s firsrt season without a title win since 2007-08.
Messi, 33, has won a record six Ballon d’Or awards during his time at Barcelona, largely sharing the accolade over the past decade with Cristiano Ronaldo, now of Juventus.
He has also helped the Catalan club win 10 Spanish league titles and four Champions League crowns.
Pending legal battle
Messi’s attempt to exit the Spanish giant could see a legal battle ensue.
According to Barcelona, the document sent by Messi referenced a clause allowing him to leave for free at the end of the season.
The club says the deadline for triggering that clause expired in June, adding that it would seek legal advice.
His contract has a 700 million euro buyout clause.
Who could afford Messi?
If Messi can leave for free, he will have a lot of suitors.
But only a few could actually afford to pay his wages even without a transfer fee — with mega-rich Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City widely seen as perhaps the most likely destinations.
Messi has been outspoken about his dissatisfaction with some of Barcelona’s decisions this season.
The club president believes that Messi would finish his career with Barcelona, and that he was a crucial part of incoming coach Ronald Koeman’s plans for the team.
Messi arrived at Barcelona as a teenager in 2001, joining the club’s famed La Masia youth academy.
His first-team debut came in 2003 as a 16-year-old, and since then he led Barcelona to 34 titles.
He holds most individual records at the club, scoring 634 goals and making 276 assists in 731 appearances.
Former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol, who was the club captain during much of Messi’s career, tweeted his support to the Argentine.
“Respect and admiration, Leo,” Puyol wrote. “You have all my support, friend.”