MADRID (AP) — Barcelona is unwavering in its intention to keep Lionel Messi, who told the club earlier this week that he wanted to leave.

Spanish media say Messi has contacted the club to try to resolve the situation, but Barcelona confirmed to the Associated Press on Saturday that it will not negotiate to allow the Argentina great to depart before his contract ends next year.

Earlier this week, Messi said he wanted to invoke a contract clause that allowed him to leave at the end of last season, but the club said the clause had already expired.

A lengthy legal battle may ensue as the 33-year-old forward is expected to say the clause was valid until the end of the season, which was pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Barcelona is not willing to give up on the player, especially not for free. Messi’s contract, which ends in June 2021, has a buyout clause of 700 million euros ($831 million). He has been with the club for nearly two decades, leading it to more than three-dozen titles and holding most of its individual records.

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