Lionel Messi’s father plays down talk of Catalan exit clause at Barcelona

Reports claiming Lionel Messi had an exit clause put in his new Barcelona contract in the case of Catalan independence “have nothing to do with the reality” of the situation, according to the player’s father.

Messi, who had been allowed to move into the final year of his contract, finally signed a new deal with Barca in November, extending his stay at Camp Nou until 2021.

The contract had originally been agreed in July, but president Josep Maria Bartomeu said one of the reasons for the delay was the need to increase Messi’s buyout clause following Neymar’s €222 million move to Paris Saint-Germain.

El Mundo reported on Friday that another reason was Messi’s desire for a clause to be added that would allow him to leave for free if Catalonia eventually secedes from Spain.

The Spanish newspaper said that if Barca were left outside of Europe’s top leagues — naming Spain, England, Germany and France, but not Italy — the Argentina international would be allowed to leave the club for free.

However, Jorge Messi has responded to the way the clause has been reported, explaining that it actually benefits Barcelona more than his son, who is showing his commitment to the club he has played for throughout his entire career.

“Everything that’s been said is not true,” Messi Sr. told Radio La Red in Argentina. “There’s a commitment from Leo to stay at Barca for as long as they’re in a top league.

“If Catalonia becomes independent, Leo would stay as long as the club remains in a competitive league, something which he would not have to do, because by FIFA’s rules he would be allowed to leave for free.

“What’s been reported has nothing to do with the reality.”

Contacted for details about any potential clause in Messi’s — or other first team players’ — contract in the event of independence, Barcelona said they could not comment as it would breach their “confidentiality” agreement with the players.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde also refused to be drawn on the topic, saying that the privacy of contracts should be respected.

“Contracts, whether mine or Messi’s, they are private contracts,” he said in a news conference on Saturday ahead of Barca’s game against Levante.

“They’re private. So I don’t want to speculate about anyone’s contract. I have nothing to say.”

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