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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 AM. Health care and emergency services have priority access at all other times now, more than ever, every little helps. Now, earlier this week, Lionel Messi formally requested a transfer from Barcelona. That and of course, this news.

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He sent his request by fax. It's official and it caused enormous surprise and shock around the world, not just, of course, in Spain, but in South America. Messi is one of Argentina's great heroes.

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And in England, it alerted the clubs, particularly Manchester City, where his former coach and mentor and Pep Guardiola is the head coach alerted City last night. And there was a story circulating in England that Lionel Messi had spoken at the Pep Guardiola and that a move to Manchester City might be on. And there are huge implications for everybody in all of this. And we're joined now from Barcelona by Richard Fitzpatrick, who guides us through all things Spanish football. And as an Irish journalist living and working in Barcelona.

[00:01:49]

Richard, when the news broke last night, it was obviously very exciting. The prospect of Lionel Messi playing in the Premier League is very exciting and has enormous consequences, most of them positive for the Premier League. First of all, what do we know since we last spoke to you? What developments have there been?

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Yeah, it's it's a moving target. And we spoke a couple of days ago, the day after the evening after Messi announced by Buro folks. That's the word we've all come to understand here in Spain and around the world.

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And it's kind of effectively a legal, legally binding document that he sent to The New York Times revealed on social media that they had never used the word before. And one of their articles in the century and a half at the club were waiting on him to send another door effects to clarify his position because he's he's due back for a medical test at the club on Sunday and training on Monday. And but the club believes that if he returns on Sunday and for this medical test, he will be going against the letter or the spirit of his original draft, which and which claims that he's a free agent from August 30th.

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But Messi camp is thinking that he doesn't want to create a war with the club if they go down in a legal battle groups. And it will create all kinds of problems and it'll be very difficult to get him out of the club and get a deal done at the moment. All roads are leading to Manchester and then City are in pole position to sign him. Messi spoke last week on the phone with Portilla. His father hardcase his agent to monitor.

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He's been negotiating. He's currently in Australia or in Argentina and in authority or their hometown, but he's due back on Sunday. He's been in contact with the club and they will speed up negotiations next week, most likely in Barcelona. For Soriano, the man city CEO would come to the city to to try and hash out a deal. But the big sticking point remains his contract, his contract to stay at the club until twenty twenty one. The club despues his rights to leave on a free transfer and which he claims he is entitled to do given the extension of the season past the original search on June 10th date.

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Yes, and June 10th is the point where Barcelona would have expected their season to end. In fact, because of the coronavirus pandemic, it didn't end until they were beaten eight two by Bayern Munich in the Champions League a fortnight ago. Now, Richard, has there been any clarification about the legal position? His crime versus Obama's crime, that he didn't exercise the option on June the 10th when he might have his his argument just to a layman, that effectively the true meaning of his contract was he could exercise it at the end of the season.

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Yeah, depends on who you speak to and what lawyer you speak to. Both sides have strong claims that the contract specifies this June 10th date and 10 days after the season would normally conclude. But Missy is saying that because of, as we say, because of the pandemic exceptional circumstances that has no extended 10 days beyond the conclusion of the Champions League last Sunday night. So both sides are sticking to their guns and it is a transfer agreement. And the last time we spoke could go through, according to FIFA, but it would be left to the courts to squabble over who pays who.

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And effectively, Messi would be on the hook for seven hundred million because that's his bio clause. And by extension, Mendacity City would be would have to come in and pay some of this in theory. And the noise coming from Manchester City's camp is that Messi is happy to sit out the season and if if if it means going on strike. And so it's an unholy mess. And both sides have have legitimate legal claims at the moment.

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Yeah. And the effect on I mean, on the game in Spain, I take it, not only in Barcelona, Catalonia, but across Spain, there is enormous surprise and shock at this news because he is whether or not the great the greatest player maybe they've ever seen runout renowned, maybe some would argue, accepted.

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Yeah, and very much so. He's he's he's universally admired for sure. There's people in Real Madrid's fanbase wallowing in the news and the US and on Wednesday at a screaming headline Adios by bureau fucks on their front page. Yeah, but in football fans just delight in him because he's so entertaining, so exceptional. And it would be devastating for the league the damage to their brand. And yes, obviously in more concrete terms to to pass the scale of his success at the club, it's really important to point out that wasn't always a great club.

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It was really good in the 30s and in the fifties. But then it went into the doldrums. It only went to league titles between nineteen sixty and nineteen ninety. And then DriveCam came in as manager and they won a European Cup in 92, but they were still one of one of the pack of of big clubs at that stage. It was only when Messi arrived on the team in 2004 and that the club was transformed into this super club know arguably the best in the world and 10 league titles in this 15 or 16 year career for European Cups and top of the original world.

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So the Vistar, if he leaves, you know, he is a guy who scored six hundred and thirty four goals at the club. The next highest scores, 400 goals behind him on that list.

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Yes. And it one of the triggers for his decision to depart was the arrival of Ronald Coleman as head coach. Anchorman's immediate decision to release Luis Suarez, who is Uruguayan striker, a very good player, better not really at his best. And of course, Massie's a best friend and neighbor in the area he lives in. Kids go to school and their wives have a business together. So that was one of the reasons, maybe the catalyst on the day.

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But there are many other reasons for his discontent as well.

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Yeah, definitely. And Suarez was the straw that broke the camel's back within twenty four hours of him getting the axe from Coolman and Messi fired off his is bureaucrats. And they'd like you say, they're they're they're best friends. They were on holidays together and EBITA and the week before the Bayern Munich game, they were on holidays again and up in the mountains of the Pyrenees. When they get to return to the city for a meeting with the new coach, Kohlman, they were out for dinner in a restaurant in the city on Wednesday.

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This week, that was that was a big factor in Messe finally just throwing in his cards. The other the other factors are so many of them that have built up over the years. And this animosity has with the president, Pakhomov, and it goes back to his original contract back in twenty seventeen when he signed and put in this unusual clause allowing him to go to leave for free at the end of each season. And you had the scandalous situation with the social media company setting up fake accounts to promote the president and smear his enemies, former players and greats like Upgradeable and Javi and of course, and current players like Messi, his wife, and a post saying this woman is such a she's like a lioness and look how she comes out to protect her or boyfriend.

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He gets them when he gets attacked. And on social media, I mean, Scarless kind of attacks from your own president. And then, of course, the situation with the football project and this would be the big beef with Messi or it was a squandered euro after euro and players that haven't succeeded at the club. And he's gone through five sporting directors since twenty two thousand fifteen, unless he looks up as Manchester and he sees a project that could deliver him another Champions League trophy.

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And crucially, he sees the peccadilloes, his head coach there, that would be a determining factor for him. Gaudio transformed Messi when he took over as coach in 2000 in Asia. At the time that he did, he shifted his position from now from winning to this fall and forward.

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His goal scoring starts went through the roof to the result.

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And he had the best two years of his career with and and so and he also has Conigliaro as one of his closest friends. He's Godfather. Conigliaro son. Yes. And that whole Manchester City project is run by Barsa executives, including Salamo, who is a former Barcelona man.

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He's going back to the deal now, are trying to win the sporting director and two key figures. Dion is a former player in Detroit from the nineties. He's another a cohort of Cordella from that team.

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So what's your best guess? You were skeptical today, Richard, when I asked you if he would leave Barcelona. Are you still skeptical? Are are you kind of is there anything in the last 48 hours that caused you to believe maybe he could end up in the Premier League?

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Yeah, the story has moved on in the last 48 hours, and it still has a long way to run because the transfer market doesn't close until the 4th or 5th of October. So you've got about five weeks of haggling. But we've seen in the past these deals can hold true for for different reasons. Money is the big sticking point here. Yeah.

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Can you tell us what's Massey's salary is and and what Barcelona would be looking for? Because Citi is subject to fair football, fair play scrutiny and are very lucky to escape through the court of arbitration at the door and avoid being barred from the Champions League. Well, what does Messi and each year I'm in the figure I've seen is around 50 million, but probably on the low side. Yeah.

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Yeah, it is. And he barsa the club, pay him a hundred and six million a year in the truck that's been running for the last three or four years. And so that's a gigantic salary in comparison to his peers like it was Cristiano Ronaldo would be on or Neymar Junior. And so the club is is is it's it's backed into a corner. I mean, its salary base would be sixty nine percent of revenue, whereas Real Madrid, for example, would only be fifty two percent.

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And that's because Messi salary and his transfer fee, that's the big thing. And Messi believes he can go on a free pass or taking in. They say there's no way they let this guy go for free would be so, so embarrassing. And they need the money. Yes.

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I mean, that's a factor, isn't it, that they do need the money because of all the money they've wasted, because of players that would want to bring in?

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Yeah, that's a very important point to raise. They would need the money to rebuild the squad, buy in another galactically. Are difficult to go through to get the crowds, illusion or excitement, as they say here in Spain. But the bigger issue here is and it's really part to stress this and this current board béchamel and these directors, they are on the hook and they're personally liable for any debt that the club accrues during their regime, which goes back to 2015.

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So they need to balance the books. They have to transfer windows to do this. And it's interesting to me, yes, yesterday he offered his head in a place to his father. He said, if I'm the problem, I'll go. But one of the conditions was that his new tenant, Jordi Carthon, there, that he would come in and replace. And so it wouldn't be a regime change. But back to Manuel knows that he needs to balance those books.

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So that's one of his conditions. He's effectively just buying time. And so the transfer feed, the Bible tells the 700 billion, obviously, that would never happen, but that they would negotiate a fee. And sources here are saying and the club wants it to surpass the fee that was paid for Naimark three years ago, but that was in an inflated market of two hundred and twenty two million. That's not realistic and necessary to market value. I would say he's thirty three.

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It's probably like one hundred and fifteen or twenty five million. And that would mean that he would try and negotiate player exchanges to bring down that fee. And Eric Garcia already wants to return to Burset, their defender. And there's other names to be mentioned. Gabriele, just whose name is Angelino. But a player exchanges are also difficult to organize because you have to persuade the player to leave most of the city players last season.

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You wouldn't be dying to get them. To be honest, which I'm not really aware of, is the exception, of course.

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But he's been injured. OK, well, so finally, are we a little more likely to see Messi in the Premier League than we were 48 hours ago when we spoke to you then, do you think, Richard, for sure, all the signs are that Messi is resolved himself.

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He's made up his mind. He wants to leave. That's the big factor in this case. The rest, the lawyers, the accountants work out.

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But there's a big call for Ronald Coleman, isn't it? The incoming head coach?

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Look, he's walked into a frightful situation. He's he's washed his hands of it. No delivered. And all those bullets earlier in the week to the other senior players in the dressing room, particularly to Suarez and Arturo Vidal, to close friends. And he says it's up to the club now to resolve this situation. I mean, if the president resigned, would he stay on as coach under a new regime? That's difficult to see. So he's he's in a sticky situation.

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Indeed, with the cards he's dealt with, he does go I mean, they already have a ready replacement in Greisman in the squad is is about as good as you get as a number ten, arguably at the moment at the peak of his career. But there's just going to be such a fallout over the departure. It doesn't augur well for the club next season.

[00:18:40]

OK, Richard, thank you very much indeed for joining us from Barcelona. And we look forward to having Lionel Messi in the Premier League. Maybe we can look for a bit more help after that.

[00:18:56]

Thank you very much, Richard. Thanks to all of you for listening.

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And thanks to our sponsor, Tascon. That's all we have time for now. We'll talk to you some.