Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Argentine star Lionel Messi, widely considered one of the greatest players in soccer history, has informed Barcelona that he plans to leave the club this summer.
League sources told ESPN, CNN and the New York Times that Messi notified Barcelona of his decision Tuesday via burofax -- a service used in Spain to quickly send a document that requires proof to third parties. The La Liga club confirmed that they received the request and responded to Messi through the same service saying they want him to stay.
The 33-year-old Messi, who has a contract that expires in 2021, believes a clause in his pact allows him to leave Barcelona for free as long as he announces his intention to do so before the conclusion of the season, according to the outlets. Otherwise, any club attempting to acquire him would have to pay an estimated $828 million release clause.
However, Barcelona is expected to argue that the clause expired at the end of June, when the Spanish and European seasons were scheduled to finish before the coronavirus pandemic halted play in March. According to the Times, Messi and his representatives believe the pandemic-delayed season allows him to activate the clause until the end of this month.
Premier League member Manchester City and Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain are early candidates to land Messi if he officially departs Barca. According to ESPN and the Times, Chelsea, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Inter Milan are other potential landing spots.
Those clubs are waiting to see whether Messi will be allowed to leave Barcelona for free. It remains unclear what additional clubs would be in contention to add the Argentine because of his high wages.
Messi, a six-time Ballon d'Or winner, made his league debut for Barcelona in 2004. During his time with the club, he helped Barcelona win 10 league titles and four Champions League trophies.