Josep Maria Bartomeu Talks Lionel Messi's €300M Clause, Neymar's PSG Transfer

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2017

VITORIA-GASTEIZ, SPAIN - AUGUST 26:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona reacts during the La Liga match between Deportivo Alaves and Barcelona at Estadio de Mendizorroza on August 26, 2017 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu does not believe Lionel Messi's €300 million release clause will be an issue, as the club will not keep any players against their will, and believes Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain is an "opportunity."

Per Sport's Ernest Folch and Albert Masnou, he said: 

"Barca will never make a player stay if he tells us he wants to leave, as happens in other clubs in Europe. 

"We have a different way of being to other clubs. [...] It doesn't matter if the clause is €500, €600, €1,000 or €1,500 million, we can put any clause that we want because if a player wants to leave, we will have to sit down and speak about how we will do it."

While the club's stance of letting players control their own futures could be seen as admirable, it could leave them vulnerable and so, too, does Messi's release clause, albeit until his renewal is signed, they will be more concerned that he is now in the final year of his deal and could move on for free next year.

It may seem unthinkable that any club might match the vast sum required to prise him away from the Camp Nou, particularly given Messi is now in his 30s, it seemed equally unthinkable that a club would do the same with Neymar's €222 million release clause, which PSG did earlier this summer in stunning fashion.

With price tags inflating to an unprecedented level in recent months, €300 million no longer appears to be beyond reach for clubs with the right backing.

Yahoo Sport's Andrew Gaffney believes Barcelona's strategy to be risky compared with Real Madrid's:

Indeed, according to Sky Sports, Cristiano Ronaldo's buyout clause has been set at €1 billion, while the likes of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric also have clauses exceeding Messi's.

The Argentinian may be 30, but he remains at the summit of world football and would naturally be a phenomenal asset to any side who could conceivably capture his signature. Squawka Football shared his superlative numbers in La Liga in recent years:

Were he to depart, it would be an even more devastating exit than Neymar's, but Bartomeu is looking at the Brazilian's transfer in a positive light, however, claiming it ends the reliance on Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. Per another report from Folch and Masnou, he said: "It's an opportunity for Barcelona to break the trident and to bet on collective play." 

Bartomeu expanded: "[The trident has] been really good but it's had consequences. It's an opportunity to play a return to collective football in midfield, which is traditionally Barca's strength."

TOPSHOT - Barcelona players Luis Suarez (L), Neymar (C) and Lionel Messi (R) take part in a training session at Barry University in Miami, Florida, on July 27, 2017, two days before their International Champions Cup friendly match against Real Madrid / AF
HECTOR RETAMAL/Getty Images

He further believes the squad is in a better state now than last season:

"Internally there's no pessimism. People think Neymar's exit weakens the team. The opposite. We have to take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen the team. 

"[...]

"[The squad is] better. Better on the right flank and in midfield. We can counter-attack and with Paulinho we've got a lot of strength. And up front we have players like [Gerard] Deulofeu and [Ousmane] Dembele."

Few would agree with Bartomeu's assertion about the strength of the squad given there are major question marks over whether Paulinho is of the required standard, and while Dembele is an excellent buy, he has big shoes to fill in replacing Neymar.

However, no longer being so reliant on the attacking trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez could help the team.

The trident's talent was such that Barca no longer needed to concentrate on their midfield, and the club failed to address their decline as their forward players were able to paper over the cracks.

Neymar's departure could spark a return to their traditional way of playing, but it will also require players of a higher calibre than Paulinho to do so—until they are implemented in the team, they do appear weaker without Neymar.

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