Lionel Messi: Barcelona president could face prison for selling Man City target this summer

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Barcelona president Josep Martia Bartomeu is under heavy fire right now.

To say the club chief was disliked by the fanbase before the Lionel Messi situation would be quite the understatement, so just imagine how unpopular he's become over the last week.

Bartomeu has been something of a pantomime villain at Camp Nou over recent years after the club's mishandling of transfers and sporting strategy caused a gradual decline in performances.

Messi set to leave Barcelona

The Blaugrana have gone five years without a Champions League title, suffering three consecutive years of embarrassing exits, while Real Madrid wrestled the La Liga trophy from them in 2019/20.

But the calls for Bartomeu's head have never been louder than after star player Messi submitted a transfer request on Tuesday night that sent shockwaves through the sporting world.

And it's widely reported that Bartomeu's presidency has played a major role in Messi's decision to kiss goodbye to the club at which he's played the entirety of his professional club career.

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Legal battle to ensue

However, the situation is made even more messy - no pun intended - by the fact a major legal battle could ensue between Messi and Barcelona over some of the finer details in his contract.

The Blaugrana believe that Messi must fulfil his deal by playing one more season at the club, opining that his early break clause expired more than two months ago.

Nevertheless, team Messi feel pretty strongly that their client should be able leave on a free transfer this summer and are essentially treating the contract as null and void by playing truant this week.

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Guillem Balague provides update

But if there's one thing we know for sure it's that Messi and Bartomeu will be either side of an incredibly convoluted process - and it's one that Guillem Balague has tried to unpick.

The revered Spanish journalist has been publishing Twitter threads on the ongoing Messi situation and his latest update, posted on Monday, proposes some dire permutations for Bartomeu.

The thread delves into why Barcelona are so desperate to keep Messi by any means with the first reason, perhaps a little obviously, being that Ronald Koeman sees him as part of his plans.

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Bartomeu could face prison time

But more pressingly, Balague explains that Bartomeu could be accused of 'mishandling assets' by either his replacement as president or season ticket holders if he doesn't fight Barca's corner.

Astonishingly, the consequences of such a situation could be so dire that Bartomeu could wind up behind bars... we kid you not.

Balague writes: "Finally if he badly sells Messi next president or season ticket holder could accuse him of mishandling assets. That could mean a huge payment from his own pocket or even prison! So he needs to fight Messi’s departure till the end." 

Of course, that's a big if and it seems as though Bartomeu is going to fight tooth and nail to ensure the necessary accusation is invalid, but he wouldn't be the first president to suffer that fate. 

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A lot at stake for Bartomeu

Bartomeu's predecessor Sandro Rosell spent 20 months in prison after being accused of laundering fees for broadcasting rights and sponsorship deals, though he was later acquitted in 2019.

So, before you wonder why Barcelona don't just shrug their shoulders, accept defeat and send Messi on his way to Manchester, perhaps consider what could be at stake for Bartomeu.

While some Barcelona fans might get a kick out of the prospect of Bartomeu spending time behind bars, I'm pretty sure he isn't one of them.

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