The Lionel Messi-Barcelona exit row soap opera has taken a new twist after LaLiga intervened and declared that he can only leave if his 700 million euro buy-out clause is paid.

Messi’s desire to leave the Spanish giants is well-documented after he sent the club officials a document telling them that he wants to exercise a clause in his contract which allows him to leave for free at the end of every season.

The deadline for that clause however passed in June but the Argentine ace’s legal team argue that the section should stand because the end of the season was prolonged by the Covi-19 crisis.

LaLiga have nonetheless boosted Barcelona’s chances of keeping the 33-year-old, as the statement they released works in the club’s favor.

“In compliance with the applicable rule, La Liga will not approve a request to be de-registered as a player with the Spanish football federation, unless the amount in the release clause has been paid,” reads the statement.

The development comes just hours after Messi was in no-show as the Barcelona squad assembled for Covid-19 testing in preparation for the start of preparations for the new season under recently-appointed Dutch coach Ronald Koeman.