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Last Straw: Will Barcelona’s Latest Scandal Affect Messi’s Future With the Club?

Barcelona’s latest scandal has prompted rumours that star Lionel Messi may leave the club this summer with media outlets speculating which football powerhouse the Argentine may join after he leaves the Catalan club. This row started after the radio show SER Catalunya reported that the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu and the board of directors hired a social media company that posted messages tarnishing the reputation of the club's players, including Lionel Messi, while at the same time praising Bartomeu and other high-ranking officials.

The company I3 Ventures managed dozens of accounts on social media where it made posts criticising Messi for delays in signing a contract with Barcelona, spoke negatively about Barca’s centre-back Gerard Piqué for his business interests. The accounts also took jabs at former Barcelona stars like Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol and manager Pep Guardiola.

Barcelona quickly issued a statement denying the accusations and threatened the radio show with legal action.

"I3 Ventures, a service provider to the Club, has no relationship with the accounts mentioned. The Club demands an immediate rectification of the information published and reserves the right to exercise legal action against those who continue to implicate the Club in such practices", read the statement on the club’s website.

At the same time, Barcelona did admit to hiring the social media company to analyse and preserve the reputation of the club, but noted that the accounts on social media, which criticised Messi and other prominent figures are in no way connected with I3 Ventures.

The scandal fueled speculation that Barcelona star Lionel Messi may leave the club in summer with media reports saying that the six-time Ballon d’Or winner may enhance the English Premier League by joining either Manchester United or Manchester City, or end up with his arch nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus.

Rumours about Messi leaving the Catalan club were prompted by the club’s performance and discord with the club’s managers. Earlier this month, the 32-year-old Argentine engaged in a public feud with Barca’s sporting director and former player Eric Abidal, who claimed that some players were underperforming under manager Ernesto Valverde, who was fired last month. Messi issued a rare public statement on Instagram saying: "You should give names because otherwise you are tainting everyone's name and feeding rumours that spread and are not true".

Messi’s contract ends this summer, but like Barca’s other stars the 32-year-old has a clause in his contract, which allows him to terminate it at the end of every season.

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