(Reuters) - Barcelona remain keen on rebuilding their team around captain Lionel Messi and will do everything in their power to keep the Argentine forward, new technical secretary Ramon Planes said on Wednesday.
Messi’s lawyers on Tuesday sent a document to Barcelona expressing the 33-year-old’s desire to activate a release clause in his contract which would allow him to leave for nothing.
Barcelona, however, say that clause has expired and a rival club must pay his release clause of 700 million euros ($827 million) if he is to leave without the club’s consent.
“Barca and Leo are like a marriage, where both have given so much to each other, and have brought so much joy to the fans,” Planes told reporters.
“This is indeed a very important story, but our idea at the club is still to build a new winning cycle around the best player in the world.”
Messi, world player of the year a record six times, has grown increasingly unhappy over the last 12 months about how the club is being run under president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
His request to leave Barca comes less than two weeks after their humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern in the Champions League quarter-finals, which condemned the Spanish club to a trophyless season for the first time in 12 years.
Planes, tasked with overseeing the club’s transfers, remains optimistic about the team under new coach Ronald Koeman.
“I think the future is positive. I am an optimist. We need experienced players, like Leo Messi, as well as players for the team’s future,” Planes said.
“We are working internally to convince Leo.”
($1 = 0.8460 euros)
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.