Football: Messi can quit Barca, if Catalonia leaves Spain

The Barcelona No. 10 could leave the club without buying out his contract.

Lionel Messi was at Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona on Friday, signing autographs.   -  AFP

Lionel Messi has ensured he could become a free agent if Barcelona no longer plays in a major European league as a result of Catalan independence, Spanish media wrote on Friday.

According to a report in Madrid daily El Mundo, the contract Messi signed last November includes a clause that he must remain a Barcelona player only as long as the club is playing in "a top-level European league."

A source at Barcelona told AFP that "for reasons of confidentiality the club never comments on contractual relations with players."

Read: Messi extends Barcelona contract until 2021

Catalonian nationalists proclaimed independence from Spain after a referendum on October 1, precipitating a crisis which is still unresolved.

The Spanish civil and football authorities have repeatedly said that Catalan secession would end the participation of the region's clubs in the Spanish League.

If Catalonia becomes independent and Barcelona is booted out of La Liga and cannot persuade another major league (France, Italy, Germany or England) to give it a home, Messi could leave without having to pay his 700 million euro ($843 million) buyout clause, said El Mundo.

The newspaper said that leaving La Liga would have the same impact on the rest of the Barcelona squad, whether the players have specific clauses or not, because it would represent a substantial change to the circumstances under which they signed their contracts.

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