BARCELONA'S hopes of keeping Lionel Messi have been given a huge boost following the resignation of club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, according to reports.
The 57-year-old and his entire board of directors left the club on Tuesday following the defeat to Real Madrid in El Clasico.
Bartomeu had come under increasing pressure after falling out with star player Lionel Messi and the club's decline, both on the pitch and off it.
It is now believed his absence could help the Catalan giants keep Messi for another season – in what would come as a huge blow to Manchester City.
The Telegraph report that Bartomeu's departure could have a big impact on what Messi chooses to do next, with the Argentine star now more willing to sign a new contract.
His current deal was set to run out next summer – meaning Pep Guardiola's Man City and other European clubs could swoop in as soon as January and sign him up on a pre-contract.
But the end of internal power struggle against Bartomeu means the Argentine superstar may now be tempted to retire at his beloved Barca.
It would end hopes of the 33-year-old linking up again with Guardiola, after the pair achieved remarkable success together at Barcelona, including two Champions Leagues where they outplayed all opponents.
Earlier this month Etihad bosses were also talking up the prospect of a reunion, with chief operating officer Omar Berrada hailing the generational talent and claiming that all clubs would 'explore' bringing him in.
But with Bartomeu now gone, the game has changed for any clubs sniffing at the possibility.
A petition of 20,000 demanded that the former president walk, despite his two-term reign ending in March.
Large swathes of the fanbase grew unhappy as the Messi transfer saga escalated in the summer, with the prospect of the forward taking the club to court at one point a genuine possibility.
Messi had wanted to leave following the club's humiliating 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final and believed a clause in his contract allowed him to exit for free.
But the extension of the season due to coronavirus complicated matters and the club claimed Messi instead needed to stump up £623m in order to quit.
Although he stayed, fans were left unimpressed by the handling of the situation, with the row spilling over into the public and dominating the Spanish press for multiple weeks.
Resentment also grew over the club's finances – which left manager Ronald Koeman limited in the transfer market – and the lack of major trophies won in recent years.
In his resignation speech, Bartomeu also claimed he had accepted proposals to for the club to join the European Super League.
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