Lionel Messi trains as bid to oust Barcelona chief gathers pace - in pictures

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A campaign to oust Josep Maria Bartomeu is gathering pace as the beleaguered Barcelona president faces a vote of no-confidence over Lionel Messi's transfer saga.

'Mes que una mocio' (More than a motion), the group supported by candidates for next year's presidential election, said they had reached 7,500 club member signatures of the required 16,520 by September 17 to trigger a vote of no confidence in Bartomeu.

If the campaign reaches its target and the vote is held, two-thirds of the club's 150,000 members would have to vote against Bartomeu to trigger an imminent election.

Bartomeu had called for elections in March 2021, three months ahead of schedule, following Barcelona's humiliating 8-2 exit to eventual champions Bayern Munich in the Champions League in August. Having served two terms already, Bartomeu is unable to stand for a third.

Messi shocked the world on August 25 by informing the club by burofax that he intended to leave Camp Nou for free.

The club maintained a clause in Messi's contract allowing him to leave if he gave notice within 10 days of the end of the season expired in June and he remains under contract until the end of the 2020/21 season.

Presidential candidate Jordi Farre filed the motion of censure a day later as supporters, former players and officials blamed Bartomeu for the malaise surrounding the club off the back of a disappointing season in which they won no trophies.

After a week of speculation in which Messi was strongly linked with a move to Manchester City and a reunion with his former Barca coach Pep Guardiola the Argentine, 33, on Friday performed a dramatic U-turn in an explosive interview with Goal Spain on Friday.

Messi, the club's record scorer and greatest ever player, said he did not want to fight a legal battle with Barca over the validity of a clause in his last contract which allowed him to depart for free.

He trained with Barca on Monday for the first time since committing his future to the Catalan club, alongside the likes of best friend and neighbour Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal, whose own futures at Camp Nou are the subject of speculation.

Uruguay striker Suarez and Chile midfielder are expected to join Juventus and Inter Milan respectively.

If Messi passes his coronavirus test and rejoins training without problems, he could feature in Barcelona's friendly against Gimnastic Tarragona on Saturday.

It would be the first time Messi has played for the team since their historic 8-2 defeat to Bayern in last month's Champions League quarter-finals.

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Messi arrives at Barca training

Barcelona' forward Lionel Messi waves as he leaves his home for the Joan Gamper Ciutat Esportiva in Sant Joan Despi. AFP

Lionel Messi arrives in Sant Joan Despi. EPA

Lionel Messi reports for training. EPA

Lionel Messi arrives at Barcelona's training ground. Reuters

Barcelona's Lionel Messi as he arrives for training. Reuters

Barcelona's Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal, left, arrives at the Joan Gamper Ciutat Esportiva in Sant Joan Despi. AFP

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Carles Alena. AFP

Barcelona's Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho arrives. AFP

Barcelona's Spanish defender Gerard Pique arrives for training. AFP

Barcelona's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez. AFP

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Rafinha arrives at the Joan Gamper Ciutat Esportiva in Sant Joan Despi. AFP

Barcelona's Spanish defender Gerard Pique arrives. AFP

Barcelona's Uruguayan defender Ronald Araujo. AFP

Barcelona's sporting director Ramon Planes arrives. AFP

Updated: September 8, 2020 03:27 PM

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