Messi absent as Koeman takes first Barca training session

By Sports Desk August 31, 2020

Lionel Messi did not take part in Barcelona's first day of pre-season training under Ronald Koeman as the six-time Ballon d'Or winner continues to angle for a move away from Camp Nou.

Messi stunned the footballing world by informing Barca of his intention to leave last week via an already infamous burofax.

As with Sunday's coronavirus testing for members of Koeman's first-team squad, Messi did not attend because he believes a clause in his contract allowing him to leave on a free transfer is now active, meaning he is no longer a Barcelona player.

This is a version of events disputed by both the club and LaLiga, which issued a statement on Sunday to underline its stance that Messi's huge €700million release clause remains valid within a contract that expires next June.

Manchester City and Messi's former coach Pep Guardiola have been widely touted as the frontrunners for the wantaway star, with further developments expected over the course of the coming week.

Koeman is reported to have indicated to Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal that their futures lie elsewhere, but they both trained among a 19-man group, with a host of senior players away on international duty.

Ivan Rakitic was given permission to miss training as he closes in on a return to Europa League winners Sevilla.

LaLiga announced its fixture schedule for 2020-21 on Monday, with Barcelona given the first two matchweeks off due to their European commitments earlier this month before starting against Villarreal at Camp Nou on September 27.

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