Outrage is growing in Barcelona after Lionel Messi's bombshell announcement that he wants to leave the club he joined as a 13-year-old.
The 33-year-old Argentine sent shockwaves around the world when he handed in a transfer request to Barcelona, signalling that he wanted to leave the club for free.
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Messi's potential departure is set to hinge on a get-out clause in his contract that would enable any would-be suitors to sign him without matching his exorbitant buy-out fee.
Messi's lawyers have referred to a clause in the four-year contract he signed in 2017 which would have allowed him to leave the club for free, but only if he requested it by June 10.
They will argue that that date - nominally the end of the season - is now irrelevant after the coronavirus delays that led to the season's extension and the team playing deep into August.
#AvanceInformativo| un grupo de aficionados del @FCBarcelona ingresa por la fuerza al #CampNou en protesta por las acciones y omisiones de la directiva y el caso #Messi ... los espero 8:00pm en @XtiNoticias canal 71 de @mx_izzi pic.twitter.com/IfBp9wlnBo— RAMIRO ESCOTO (@Ramiro_Escoto) August 27, 2020
The club will argue the May date is the relevant one and so his departure now would trigger a monster ($A1.1 billion) release payment from any interested club.
Messi's long-standing association with the club has soured over the past 12 months under the management of president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who has copped a mountain of criticism from disgruntled fans.
The prospect of losing arguably the greatest player in the world has left Barcelona fans livid, with footage capturing hundreds of demonstrators storming the team's Camp Nou stadium, demanding to speak with the embattled president.
¡Tensión en el Camp Nou!— tunotacom (@tunota_com) August 27, 2020
Aficionados que protestaban a las afueras del CAMP NOU lograron entrar al recinto del estadio
Video cortesía (ChiringuitoTV) pic.twitter.com/3ghKlhj7i2
The six-time Ballon d'Or winner's transfer request followed Barca's humiliating 8-2 Champions League defeat to eventual winners Bayern Munich.
Barcelona's technical secretary Ramon Planes has defended his president after insisting the club's aim is "to build a new winning cycle around the best player in the world ... we are working internally to convince Leo".
Former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon has also defended Bartomeu's role in the Messi affair, describing the Barca president as a "black sheep".
"Being sat in this chair is very difficult," Calderon told Stats Perform News.
"It is much more difficult than what people can imagine.
"There are so many critics and yet, when things go well, the praise is for players and managers. It is normal that the president is the black sheep.
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"This is the person who is accused of not signing a player or letting a player who fans consider important for the team leave. I don't like it.
"I don't have the information [to properly analyse], but I think Bartomeu has been a good president. From what I see and from what I know of him, I think he is a good president.
"It is very complicated. Even more so in this time when the team start to lose and get that humiliating defeat. The fans don't forgive."
Attempting to explain Bartomeu's actions, Calderon added: "As all presidents do, he has looked for the best for the club.
"Whatever he has done or said, I am sure it has always been for good and trying to get the best for the club he represents."
With Messi now set to leave La Liga behind, Calderon believes the competition will struggle to cope after seeing their two biggest stars depart.
"It would be really hurtful for the image, the quality, the show," he said. "We have been really lucky having Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi playing in our league for the past 10 years, the best two players in the world by far.
"They won't be here anymore, neither of them will be with us. It is really hurtful for our league and for the fans."