Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Sport | By Gary Shelton

Barcelona win as Coutinho waits, Real Madrid held

Barcelona win as Coutinho waits, Real Madrid held

Lionel Messi could leave FC Barcelona without a transfer fee if Catalonia ceded from Spain and the club did not compete in any of Europe's top four leagues.

Messi and his Barcelona team-mates were given permission to leave as the La Liga broke out for its annual winter break after their triumph in the El Clasico on December 23.

El Mundo claims that Barca "understand that Catalan independence would constitute a major change to [Messi's] contract" and thus have agreed to insert the escape clause.

It runs until June 2021 and contains a 700 million euro (£623 million) buy-out clause.

Lionel Messi could be on his way out of Barcelona due to an incredible clause in his contract.

Under Spanish sports law, Barca would be prevented from remaining in the country's La Liga competition if Catalonia secedes - and it is far from certain that another top league, such as England's Premier League or Germany's Bundesliga, would be willing to accept them.

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But, after an autumn referendum on independence which authorities in Madrid declared illegal, it dissolved the region's political institutions after they ratified it.

"(Coutinho) is a player who I think can bring many things to the team", Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

The decision was however in response to police violence against would-be voters.

Five-time European champion Barcelona would face limited competition were it to play in a league formed exclusively of Catalan teams, even though the region does have two other sides - Espanyol and Girona - in Spain's first division, which the club now leads. Soccer teams rarely play in a league outside their own country, although exceptions exist, such as AS Monaco FC from the principality on the Mediterranean coast which competes in France's Ligue 1.

However, they were "not planning for any other scenario than playing in the Spanish league. I want to continue winning trophies for the club".

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