Barcelona reject idea of release clause in Messi contract

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The paper claims Messi demanded that Barca insert a release clause in his latest contract, signed late previous year, which stipulates that he will only stay at the club in the event of independence if they remain in "a top European league".

The referendum had direct ramifications for Barcelona who, on the day that it was held, chose to play their La Liga game against Las Palmas behind closed doors in response to police violence against would-be voters. They seem armed to battle for few titles this year.

Valverde's side sit top and nine points clear of closest challengers Atletico Madrid and 14 clear of rivals Real Madrid, as well as boasting an unbeaten record.

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Ousmane Dembele started for Barcelona and played just more than an hour before being substituted in his second appearance since returning from a left-leg injury that sidelined him since mid-September.

The deal saw Coutinho become the second most expensive footballer ever behind compatriot Neymar, who moved from Barcelona to Paris St Germain for 222 million euros in August.

Messi was back in the starting line-up after missing the King's Cup draw with Celta Vigo on Thursday and marked his 400th game in La Liga by opening the scoring in the 12th minute, volleying Jordi Alba's cushioned header into the net.

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Barcelona are in relentless form at the moment and the scary thing is they're only going to get better now that Coutinho has joined from Liverpool for £142 million.

Suarez made amends after 38 minutes, however, collecting a Sergi Roberto pass and lashing in an unstoppable volley to score for the fifth successive La Liga game.

Messi is likely to see out his remaining contract with the club and keep destructing defences like he has been doing ever since donning the Barcelona jersey.

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