Thank you for your reading and interest in the news No sign of Lionel Messi as Barcelona stars report for Covid-19 testing - in pictures and now with details
Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Barcelona players and staff reported to the club's training headquarters on Sunday, but there was no sign of star player Lionel Messi.
Barca's greatest ever player was due at the Ciutat Esportiva on Sunday morning for coronavirus tests, which must be taken and passed if he is to join Ronald Koeman's first pre-season session on Monday.
And while the likes of Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique - Messi's teammates who face their own uncertain futures at Camp Nou - Barcelona fans' worst fears seemed to be confirmed with the Argentine's no show.
Messi's absence is his first public demonstration since the burofax that stated his intention to leave for free arrived in the offices of Camp Nou on Tuesday evening and shocked the world of football.
Barcelona's newly-appointed sporting director Ramon Planes said on Wednesday the expectation was Messi would be present on Sunday for testing and then training on Monday as usual.
But while Messi was initially inclined to comply and avoid escalating tensions further, his lawyers have since advised him to stay away, Catalunya Radio were reporting on Saturday.
With the new La Liga season set to start on September 12, it is believed Messi's legal representatives have advised that taking part in the team's pre-season programme could damage his legal case if his departure ends up being settled in court.
Messi believes a clause in his contract allows him to walk away for free so long as he communicates that decision. Barcelona believe the deadline for that clause to be applied has expired, as he had to inform them of his decision before June 10.
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However, given the extraordinary circumstances of the 2019/20 season dealing with an unprecedented shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Messi’s camp argue that the extended campaign officially ended after last Sunday's Champions League final, are set to argue that the 10-day deadline should be set on August 31.
Barca believe the law is on their side, and have told the player any club wishing to negotiate must first meet his €700 million (Dh3.039 billion) buyout clause.
His contract at Camp Nou expires on June 30, 2021.
Mundo Deportivo, the Barcelona daily with close links to the board, wrote on Saturday how the club is adamant the Argentine - the club's record scorer and most decorated player in history - will remain.
"The more the days go by, the firmer the board and president Josep Maria Bartomeu are in not moving from their position," it read. "Which is not to sell and, if possible, to renew the contract of Messi."
Yet every stance is arguably now a negotiating ploy and Messi's return on Sunday might only offer false hope to the fans.
Barca fans staged protests outside Camp Nou last week, demanding the resignation of Bartomeu whom they blame for the malaise surrounding the club.
Bartomeu has made it known in the Spanish press that he would resign if Messi said publicly that he was the problem and agreed to change his mind.
But Messi has instead asked for a meeting, not to negotiate, but to begin facilitating an amicable and dignified departure.
"Messi's decision to leave Barca irreversible," read a Diario Sport headline on Saturday.
Manchester City remain favourites to sign the 33-year-old, with many of Messi's compatriots at home telling reporters of their desire to see the country's all-time top scorer reunite with former mentor Pep Guardiola and Argentina teammate Sergio Aguero.
Updated: August 30, 2020 12:55 PM
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