Barcelona admit Lionel Messi may leave

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Could Messi be heading for the Premier League?
Could Messi be heading for the Premier League?

Barcelona chiefs have admitted for the first time that Lionel Messi could leave their club and have admitted clubs like Manchester City have the spending power to snare the Argentine maestro.

The 27-year-old, who is Barca's all-time top scorer, is tied to the Catalan giants until June 2019 and has a £205m release clause in his contract.

When asked about Messi's future, Barca international sporting director Ariedo Braida told Catalan TV channel Esport 3: "I believe it's very difficult that Messi will leave Barca, but at times in football strange things happen.

"Now with these clubs that have so much money like (Manchester) City, certain amounts don't seem to have a value.

"In football things happen that appear impossible but I hope he will remain."

Messi claimed earlier this year that he was happy at Barca and quashed speculation that he would leave the club this summer.

The Argentina international created a new hat-trick record in Spain by scoring three goals in Barca's 6-1 triumph over Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, his 24th league treble for Barca in all competitions.

The outcome at the Nou Camp lifted Luis Enrique's team to the top of Primera Division, just one point clear of Real Madrid, who lost 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Messi has enjoyed an outstanding campaign, scoring 30 goals and setting up 14 more in 26 league appearances.

"He is not just a player," Braida said. "Messi is a phenomenon, he is an alien."