Sources: Barcelona's meeting with Messi's father-agent ends in tense stalemate

The face-to-face meeting between Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and Jorge Messi ended in a stalemate on Wednesday as Lionel Messi continues to look for a way out of the club, sources told ESPN.

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Bartomeu reiterated the club's stance that Messi is not for sale while the player's father, who is also his representative, reaffirmed his son's desire to leave.

The meeting, the first between Bartomeu and Messi's father since the player made his decision last week, lasted for almost two hours but didn't deliver a breakthrough. The Barca president stood by the line that Messi remains under contract until 2021 and any club that wants to sign him would have to pay his €700 million release clause.

Messi Sr. continued to claim that the forward can leave for free. A clause in Messi's contract, which was signed in 2017, states he can walk away for nothing at the end of each season. Barca argue the clause expired in June; Messi's camp believe the extension of the season because of the coronavirus crisis means that's not the case.

Sources close to the meeting say there were some moments of tension with neither side prepared to budge. Further talks will take place, but nothing has been arranged yet with both parties currently reluctant to negotiate.

Jorge Messi arrived in Barcelona early Wednesday morning following a 15-hour flight from Rosario in his native Argentina. He was greeted at the airport by photographers and journalists and was followed throughout the city as he went about his day before meeting with Bartomeu.

Speaking to Deportes Cuatro, he said it's "difficult" to imagine Messi staying at Camp Nou, although he denied talks have already taken place with Manchester City.

Sources have previously told ESPN that Man City are working on a deal for Messi and are working on one formula that would see him sign for the Premier League side before ending his career with partner club New York City FC in Major League Soccer. The figures involved have not been revealed.

City remain optimistic that they are leading the race for Messi if he engineers a move away from Barca.

Messi, 33, first told Barca via burofax last Tuesday that he was executing the clause he believes allows him to use for free. He has since failed to report for preseason. Sources have explained that's because joining in preparation for the new campaign would compromise the legal argument he's already terminated his contract.

Barca's interpretation is that the disputed clause has expired and his release clause is still active. Sources at the club insist he can leave for free only if he takes the next year off, without playing for another club and without his salary.

ESPN's Sam Marsden contributed to this report.