Messi has option to leave Barca next summer

<p>
              Barcelona's soccer player Lionel Messi, right, holds the award of UEFA Champions League forward of the season 2018/19 as he poses with UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin during the group stage draw at the Grimaldi Forum, in Monaco, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
            </p>

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona’s club president has confirmed that Lionel Messi would have the right to leave the club at the end of this season, as stipulated in his contract.

Spanish newspaper El País reported Thursday that Messi’s current contract with Barcelona includes the option for the soccer great to unilaterally end his stay in the summer of 2020.

Club president Josep Bartomeu said late Friday that “Leo Messi has a contract through 2020-21, but before that last season the player could leave Barca.”

Bartomeu, however, said he was confident that the club’s all-time leading scorer would stay with the team “until 2021 and beyond.”

Messi, 32, has scored 603 goals in 687 matches for Barcelona since his debut in 2004. He has helped it win 34 titles, including four Champions League trophies and 10 Spanish leagues.

The Argentine has repeatedly said he is happy to play for the Spanish champions.