Football superstar Lionel Messi has told Barcelona he wants to leave the club after nearly two decades with the Spanish team.
The club confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Argentine sent a document expressing his wish to leave.
This is also Barca’s firsrt season without a title win since 2007-08.
Messi, 33, has won a record six Ballon d’Or awards during his time at Barcelona, largely sharing the accolade over the past decade with Cristiano Ronaldo, now of Juventus.
He has also helped the Catalan club win 10 Spanish league titles and four Champions League crowns.
Possible legal battle
But his attempted exit from the Spanish giant could see a legal battle ensue.
Barcelona said the document sent by Messi referenced a clause allowing him to leave for free at the end of the season.
The club says the deadline for triggering that clause expired in June, adding that it would seek legal advice.
His contract has a 700 million euro buyout clause.
Who could afford him?
If Messi can leave for free, he will have no shortage of suitors.
But only a handful of clubs could actually afford to pay his wages even without a transfer fee — with mega-rich Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City widely seen as perhaps the most likely destinations.
Messi has been outspoken about his dissatisfaction with some of Barcelona’s decisions this season.
Club president Josep Bartomeu had said he was confident that Messi would finish his career with Barcelona, and that he was a crucial part of incoming coach Ronald Koeman’s plans for the team.
Messi arrived at Barcelona as a teenager in 2001, joining the club’s famed La Masia youth academy.
His first-team debut came in 2003 as a 16-year-old, and since then he led Barcelona to 34 titles.
He holds most individual records at the club, scoring 634 goals and making 276 assists in 731 appearances.
Former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol, who was the club captain during much of Messi’s career, tweeted his support to the Argentine.
“Respect and admiration, Leo,” Puyol wrote. “You have all my support, friend.”