La Liga has dashed Lionel Messi's hopes of leaving Barcelona on a free transfer by stating his release clause will have to be paid if he is to leave the Nou Camp.
Messi notified Barcelona this week that he intends to walk away from the club by exercising a clause in his contract that allows him to leave for free at the end of each season.
Even though the deadline to exercise the clause has passed, Messi's lawyers believe Barcelona should honour it as the season had to be extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, LaLiga have now bolstered Barcelona's stance, with the club insisting that the clause has expired and the only way Messi will be allowed to leave is if his €700m release clause is paid in full.
A LaLiga statement on Sunday read: "With regard to the different interpretations (some of which are contradictory) relating to the current contractual situation of FC Barcelona footballer Lionel Andres Messi that have been published across various media outlets in recent days, having analysed the player's contract with the club, LaLiga would like to clarify the following.
"The contract is currently valid and contains a release clause which is applicable should Lionel Messi decide to trigger the early unilateral termination of the contract, in accordance with article 16 of Royal Decree 1006/1985 of 26 June, which regulates the special employment status that professional sportspeople have.
"In compliance with the applicable regulations and protocol that apply in such instances, LaLiga will not carry out the prior visa-release process for the player to be unregistered from the (Royal Spanish Football) Federation if the sum in the aforementioned clause has not been paid beforehand."
La Liga's intervention comes just hours after Messi failed to report for coronavirus testing at Barcelona's training complex, meaning he will be unable to participate in Ronald Koeman's first training session as the club's new head coach on Monday afternoon.
It is understood the 33-year-old warned the club in advance via Burofax - a form of recorded delivery provided by Spain's postal service - that he was not going to be present.If Messi does manage to negotiate his Barcelona exit, Manchester City are currently the favourites to sign him.
The six-time Ballon d'Or winner's push to depart the Nou Camp comes after Barcelona finished the season without a trophy for the first time in 12 years and ended the campaign with a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Analysis: Meeting to firm up move away from Barca
Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
"I think the situation is that Messi wants a meeting with the Barcelona board to reiterate his desire that he wants to leave.
"Barcelona's position is not going to change. Messi and his representatives think there is a clause in his contract which means he can leave for nothing this summer.
"I think the message he will get in that meeting from Barcelona is 'you are not going anywhere for free, if you want to leave we believe your contract says that there is a release clause of €700m, that is what it will take'."
Insight: 'Meeting did not go well for Messi'
Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero told Sky Sports News the seeds for Messi's decision were sown when he met new boss Ronald Koeman last week:
"The main thing is that the meeting last Friday with Ronald Koeman was not as good as they expected for a football club like Barcelona.
"The meeting with Koeman didn't go well, from Messi's opinion.
"Koeman told him that he didn't count, for example, with players such as Arturo Vidal or Luis Suarez. And Messi didn't like that.
"The way of Koeman treating him in the media and the way he has expressed the way he wants to work in Barcelona wasn't liked by Messi, so I think that was the situation."
Analysis: Man City is Messi's best option
"Manchester City is the best option because of the money, because of the Premier League and because of Pep Guardiola. Put everything together and it is a good situation for Messi.
"This evening in Spain, on a television programme, they said that Manchester United could be an option. Many people in Italy are saying that Inter [Milan] could be an option. I don't think so because there is a difference in the financial situation of the Premier League and Italy, France, Spain or Germany.
"Of course, the Premier League is also maybe the best league in the world so I think Premier League plus Manchester City plus Guardiola is a good cocktail altogether.
"We know the union of Guardiola and Messi at Barcelona eight or nine years ago was amazing. Maybe the best team in the world ever. I would say there is a huge possibility of Manchester City and I would say they are the first ones in this race."
Source: Sky Sports