Lionel Messi leaves the field at the Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, after the 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich
Lionel Messi leaves the field at the Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, after the 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich Image Credit: Reuters

Lionel Messi appears to be playing hardball with Barcelona over his transfer request and is looking to force through a move to Manchester City after he failed to turn up at the Spanish side’s training ground to undergo a scheduled coronavirus test on Sunday.

Messi was required to turn up for COVID-19 testing ahead of training with new coach Ronald Koeman following their return from Champions League duty in Lisbon, but the wantaway Argentine did not turn up, according to Catalan radio station RAC1.

The station said that Messi did not go to the training ground as he believes that after telling the club on August 25 that he wanted to leave, the conditions of his contract state that he can abandon the Camp Nou without a transfer fee.

Barcelona disagree and insist that Messi had to tell them of his desire to abandon the club by June 10, nominally the end of the season in 2020, which was extended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Barca’s season didn’t finish until August 14 due to the suspension of competition caused by the coronavirus.

Under the four-year contract signed in 2017, Messi can leave the club for free if he requests it by June 10. Messi invoked this clause, but Barca said it had already expired.

Messi has been with Barca for nearly two decades and is strongly linked with a move to Manchester City.

On Saturday, Messi's father informed Paris St-Germain that the Barcelona playmaker wants to join City and be reunited with former coach at Camp Nou Pep Guardiola, according to reports in France.

The Argentine has told Barca he wants to leave after growing unhappy with the club’s problems on and off the pitch.

Messi has been linked with a move to City, PSG, Inter Milan and Juventus. But the 33-year-old reportedly spoke with Guardiola last week before requesting to leave Barca, and told the Spanish City boss that only he can help Messi stay at the top of the game.