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[00:00:08]

Hello and welcome to The Stand with Eamon Dunphy. The stand is proudly supported by Tesco at Tesco, our exclusive house for over sixty fives. Family carers and extremely medically vulnerable customers are every weekday, Monday to Friday, up to nine a.m. Health care and emergency services have priority access at all other times now, more than ever, every little helps. Now, there has been an extraordinary breaking story in Spain, and it concerns Lionel Messi at one of the great players of all time.

[00:00:45]

Many believe the greatest player of all time. He has asked his club, Barcelona, for a transfer, which is a pretty extraordinary story. Massie's 33 now. He's been at Barcelona since he was 13. And of course, we all know how much he's given to the game of football. But these are hard times for the club. They suffered a humiliating Champion's League defeat, eight two at the hands of Bayern Munich. So and they have appointed a new head coach, Ronald Coleman and the Dutchman.

[00:01:24]

And we're joined now from Barcelona by Richard Fitzpatrick, an Irish journalist working there who keeps us up to date with Spanish football. Richard, this is a very, very big story. And the fact that he has, if you can confirm it, ask for a transfer is very big news indeed and will alert the world of football.

[00:01:48]

Yeah, bumba, Messi. It's huge news. He his lawyers sent a fax or a bureau fax to the club's legal office last night at seven 20 local time and asking for a transfer he wants out. There's a big sticking point with his case. Messi has a contract until twenty twenty one, but there's a clause in the contract that says that he could leave at the end of the season on a free transfer. In normal circumstances, this season would end on June 30th, but that date was obviously pushed back because of the corporate crisis.

[00:02:32]

So Messi is claiming that he has until today or until now to push through that transfer. The club disagreed with his position. They say he's he's that clause expired and on June 10th. And so they they're holding firm on that. So that would really complicate negotiations between both parties. And it's I mean, it's a very ugly set of messages. And talking to the president, to the president does have a line to his father, who's his manager.

[00:03:06]

And it's it doesn't augur well that they can't even sit down and discuss this. And there's also the problem of the money the club will not let Messi go for free is such an embarrassing situation. The greatest player, arguably in history. And according to El Pais this morning, they say that FIFA would allow a transfer to go through the two parties, a messy and the club could squabble in court over the fee that Messi would have to pay back to the club in the event of a free transfer.

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But that's a transfer could go ahead in the meantime. And so it's a very, very messy situation. The fans are up in arms, as you can imagine. They were camped outside the stadium last night calling for the resignation of the president. And so it's got very ugly.

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Yes. And the arrival of Ronald Coleman, a former Barcelona player, on a very, very good Barcelona player. He's proved himself in management, particularly latterly with the Netherlands international team. He arrived. And now, as it's been reported, one of the first things he did was call Luis Suarez, Uruguayan striker and in a one minute phone call, tell him that he had no future with the club. Now, that is, he's not the only one that was called Vidal Racketeer or other well-known players who are told they could go.

[00:04:48]

But in Luis Suarez case, he is a close friend of Mass is the closest. They live quite close. I understand. And I think you've told us before, Richard, that kids go to the same school as so by axing Suarez. He didn't endear himself to Messi.

[00:05:05]

No, that's. A key factor in this dispute that they're described as soul mates here they are, their neighbors outside the city. They're, as you say, their kids go to the same school and even their wives share business together. A shoe store in the city and run. Kaufman was unveiled as coach on Wednesday evening last. And the first thing he did was meet with Messi on Thursday. It was interesting. Messi left his holidays. He was on holidays at the time with Suarez and Jordi out of their families up in the Pyrenees Mountains.

[00:05:42]

He jumped in the car, drove the two hours to Barcelona to have a face to face meeting with Coolen. And so he got wind of the fact that Suarez wasn't going to be in humans plans. Suarez came out at the weekend and gave an interview to police and he said he wanted to stay at the club even if it meant a reduced role, i.e., playing as a substitute next season. And so then that the following morning, Koopman made the phone calls.

[00:06:11]

People here in Catalonia were shocked at the at the coldness and the speed. He basically speed died. All those players you mentioned and said there were surplus to requirements to get their lawyers to negotiate a nexus with the club if they didn't find a transfer to leave. But this was one of the breaking points for Messi in in leaving the trip to the treatment and that he feels and or the maltreatment that he felt Suarez was subjected to this guy. Luis Suarez is the third highest goal scorer in persons history behind Messi and the guy says are from the forties and early fifties.

[00:06:53]

So Messi is to more respect. And so there are other factors feeding into. The big one, of course, is Messi disenchantment with the president. Pratima, this crisis didn't happen overnight and it's going back for years because of the bad relationship between Messi and Bartolo. And it was it was notable that we've spoken about it a few times before this curious, although it's not a unique clause that he had in his contract, that he could leave at the end of every season on a free contract if he wanted to.

[00:07:28]

He put that in for a reason because he has this cold relationship with the president and he wanted an up and out. So he's spoken before with clubs he came to in twenty, fourteen, twenty sixteen to join in Vancity last week. He was talking with Pep Guardiola to see if it'd be possible to do the transfer to cities. So and this is a crisis that's been bubbling and particularly over the last year because of how shambolic, shambolic Barsa have been, which culminated, of course, in the eight two defeats to Bart.

[00:08:03]

Yes. And of course, it would be fantastic for the Premier League if Lionel Messi turned up. And it would be extraordinary, amazing. And it would be just without a dimension to our pleasure. If you look at it from Ronald Coleman's perspective, Richard, that there's a history now in the last few years of player power at Barsa, where Messi and other senior players, both cats and people like that, they have been sort of very powerful and obviously one as a highly respected coach, a great player in his day.

[00:08:56]

He wants to make sure that he is the boss and he's laying down a marker, I imagine, to say that it's not just to the players, but to the president as well, that it's his way. And on that basis, he's taken the job. Now, he may not have won any awards for diplomacy because clearly so as a message close and he did have that meeting with Messi, it's reported that Messi said to Coolman when asked what his position was, he said, My position, I'm more out than I'm in.

[00:09:31]

In other words, I want to go more than I really want to say.

[00:09:35]

Yeah, you nailed it there. Coolman was laying down a marker. He's he's done this before at Valencia. He came in and to deal with the heavyweights in that dressing room and there was often ructions there that season. He was in charge of seven to eight, always three. The senior players ended up in court and sensitizer there is was one of them. And so Kumin has form here. He wanted to clear out the dressing room heavyweights you mentioned.

[00:10:06]

And Sergeant Biscuit's use another one, he's not a bolshie figure, but he's a senior figure in the dressing room. Kuman has told him as well he's facing a secondary role at the top season and he won't be guaranteed Star Trek. He wants to be the midfielder and Franchetti Young. And so message, it doesn't like what he's seeing here. It's it's a difficult, very difficult task the Koopman has, because that player goes back over a decade. And it was one of the reasons that's Picardie only left his manager in twenty twelve.

[00:10:40]

He was yes. He was just Bardos. He said he didn't want to damage relationships. He had some of those players in the team. He would have played with them, Carlos Puyol and Juvy Hernandez. But he was sick of the of the indiscipline of of the senior players in that dressing room. I remember Danielle was returning late from holidays from Brazil one time.

[00:11:02]

Now, Richard, from Cummings point of view, am losing Messi and would be, I think everyone would agree, a blow, maybe a mortal blow to this Barcelona team, but he appears to be prepared to take that chance.

[00:11:24]

Or does he think that is bluffing because Massey Massey's roots in Barcelona are very, very deep, aren't they? Absolutely.

[00:11:33]

He's been here since he was a 13 year old kid. Back in two thousand. It'll be a month. And next and in September, his 20th anniversary of coming over for trial, he's huge, deep roots in the club.

[00:11:48]

It would be it's brinkmanship. And Kuman is his has told unless he wants to build his project around him and rejuvenate the squad and the president, the two men was unveiled. He said there were seven players that were untouchable, implying that the rest of the squad was untouchable. Those seven players, except for most people, are all under 30. So it's to both of us both rebuilding. And it's it's he's playing with fire because this is he has a history of being petulant and sulky.

[00:12:21]

He's retired twice before, at least from the Argentina squad. And he's come close to leaving the club when he had those tax problems back on twenty, fourteen, twenty fifteen, he said it was more he wanted to leave Spain than Barcelona. It was kind of childish notion. And but so the club is playing with fire to think they have a big problem like Barthélémy with the president in his head.

[00:12:49]

He would he would he would sell Messi if he got enough money for him just to save face Messi. Thirty three know he can argue that the club has to rebuild. Messi won't go on forever. They'll have to they would have to bite the bullet at some stage. But it's just the manner of the exits. And it's not universally. And the opposition to Messi departing isn't universal. So the hardcore fans are definitely up in arms. But there's a cohort in the club and traditionally the club has a very conservative fan base and they're upset at the manner of his handling of the situation.

[00:13:29]

Yes, he's been backed into a corner, but to end the twenty year relationship by Fox doesn't speak to his, his, his or his is his maturity. And so it's a fascinating situation and it's difficult to see how it could be resolved without leaving.

[00:13:50]

Yeah, and Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, one obvious destination certainly wouldn't be a problem for them to find the money. And PSG, obviously, the Qataris, they have money. And you also told me before we started recording that David Beckham's franchise, Miami Inter, might be in the frame. I have to say, I think it would be sacrilegious if just great player ended his playing days in the American Soccer League. But you never know with David Beckham, do you?

[00:14:27]

Yeah, this is it would be a real long shot. He's Beckham has been courting both Messi and Suarez for a couple of years now. And if Suarez, for example, went there, it might encourage Messi to go as well to have a sabbatical with his family in Florida for a year or two. But Messi over the last year, whenever he spoke and he says the one thing he wants is a winning project. He wants a winning team and he won't win any trophies over in the United States with respect to the league.

[00:15:00]

And now I would say the more likely destinations definitely on city are the front runners. And Inter Milan could be a dark horse as well as his father moved to Milan a couple of months ago for tax reasons and to try and establish a bit of distance between himself and Messi. Inter Milan have the resources that are owned by a Chinese guy who runs the third biggest company in China with close ties to the president there. And there is favorable tax situation.

[00:15:33]

And in Italy, players are tax free for the first fifty percent of their salary. That's partly why Ronaldo was able to move there to Juventus two years ago.

[00:15:46]

But and then there is also the chance that Messi stays, that they can resolve the situation at the club. It would take a loss for that situation to happen. Pratima would definitely have to resign and they would have to have a common front of both of you, both of our opponents that would come in in place of them. They would be the frontrunner in opposition is this guy, Victor Funt. He said last week that even if I Koopman want to triple this year or treble this season, he would be out the door that he wants to bring in Javier Hernandez.

[00:16:21]

So what would you do with Koopman as head coach? This is all in preseason, the season will kick off on September 12th, so it's an absolute dog's dinner. OK, Richard, we're very grateful to you for joining us today to bring us up to date with that news just on your own hunch. What do you think will happen with Messi?

[00:16:46]

Yeah, that's a tough one. I'm sure it is.

[00:16:51]

An educated guess is better than an uneducated. Yeah.

[00:16:54]

Either he goes to Mount City or he stays. I would I'd say I'd say it'll probably end up that he would stay. It's just such a complex, complicated transfer to get done, give it a salary.

[00:17:08]

And the dispute over whether he can go on a free transfer or not, there's only clubs who could afford to buy him. So yeah, I'd say he would stay if it didn't my color to it at the Manchester level and might have something to say.

[00:17:22]

He might fit that into the equation. Well, Richard Fitzpatrick in Barcelona, thank you very much indeed for bringing us that news. Thanks to you. Thanks to our listeners, of course.

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And a big thanks to Tasco, our sponsor. That's all we have time for now. We'll talk to you soon.