La Liga issued a statement on Sunday insisting that a get-out clause allowing him to leave for free this summer is not longer valid.
Otherwise, any suitors will have to either meet the atsronomical buy-out clause or hope they can negotiate a lower transfer fee with Barcelona.
The news is a significant blow to Messi and in particular City, who will want to ensure they stay inside UEFA’s financial fair play rules after successfully overturning a two-year Champions League ban recently.
But Messi is reportedly determined not to let the development stop him from forcing his exit from Barcelona.
Journalist Fabrizio Romano took to Twitter claiming that Messi “is not going to change his mind” and is ready to take on Barcelona and La Liga.
He tweeted: “Messi also after La Liga statement is not going to chance [sic] his mind.
“He wants to leave and to start a new chapter. Barcelona told him again they won’t let Leo go for free to Manchester City – and La Liga position is part of their strategy. The saga is on.”
The get-out clause in Messi’s contract which allowed him to leave at the end of the season was valid until the end of June, but the six-time Ballon d’Or winner argued the pandemic meant the season was extended.
But La Liga rebuffed that in its statement, which read: “In compliance with the applicable rule, La Liga will not approve a request to be de-registered as a player with the Spanish football federation, unless the amount in the release clause has been paid.”
Messi did not report for coronavirus testing with the rest of the Barcelona squad on Sunday, which means he cannot return to training on Monday.
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It is understood he deliberately did not show up for the test in order to underline his determination to leave the Catalan club this summer.
Messi’s unhappiness at the Nou Camp has alerted Europe’s top clubs to his potential availability.
Paris-Saint Germain and Inter Milan are believed to be keen on his signature, while Juventus also reportedly entered the race, sparking anticipation of a sensational link-up between the Argentine superstar and Cristiano Ronaldo.