The Poland captain is one of the most highly-rated forwards in world football, even at the age of 33, but has finally decided it is the right moment to call time on his eight-year stay at the Allianz Arena, and has not held back when showing his unhappiness amid links to Barcelona.
He claimed ‘something had died inside me’ and stated his journey at the club was ‘over’ in a bold move, though his comments have not gone down well with Bayern chiefs, the press or indeed the fans.
But Bayern are not alone in the history of a big player turning against them and trying to force an exit. When a top star wants out, a club is put in an impossible situation – do they sell up and cash in, but lose the man who can make the difference for them, or let him rot in the reserves to prove a point?
Sportsmail looks through some tense moments in football when a talisman has turned his back on the club that holds him dearest.
Robert Lewandowski has gone to war with Bayern – but he’s not the only talisman who has fallen out with their club
LIONEL MESSI – BARCELONA
It was the union that we never thought would break – Lionel Messi and Barcelona. But all good things must come to an end, we just never imagined it would end the way it did, with the Argentine submitting his transfer request by burofax.
Messi could only carry the club so far, and after their 8-2 humiliation in 2020 at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, enough was enough. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, with the club in freefall after sacking Ernesto Valverde and going nowhere under Quique Setien.
So he took the unusual step of using a burofax to inform then-president Josep Bartomeu that he was going to depart the Nou Camp on a free transfer at the end of the season – with a clause in his contract allowing him to end his contract early, despite it officially ending in 2021.
Messi’s father and agent Jorge flew in to Barcelona for crunch talks with the Barcelona hierarchy and a tense legal battle ensued – with the club adamant that the player had missed a deadline in June to activate his clause, and that any team wishing to buy him would have to pay his £700m release clause.
Lionel Messi handed in a transfer request via burofax after Barcelona were dumped out of the Champions League following an 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich
LIONEL MESSI’S BUROFAX MESSAGE IN FULL
Dear Mr. Bartomeu,
Through this communication and in accordance with clause 3.1 from the contract signed on 25th November 2017, I express my desire to end my professional football contract as of the date of 30th August 2020.
I understand that the time frame for the right to unilateral termination of the contract, without proving cause, should be interpreted in accordance with the exceptional circumstances of the 2019/20 football season, given the state of emergency and the force majeure situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of this exceptional circumstance, the 2019/20 season finished yesterday, while for our team the end of the season was on 15th August as we returned to Barcelona following our elimination from the Champions League on 14th August.
In either case, we are within the period of 10 days following the end of the season of competition and in the period agreed for triggering the aforementioned clause 3.1, which was established in our agreement and which should be interpreted in line with the exceptional circumstances of the 2019/20 season, so I exercise my right to terminate the contract as of 30th August, bringing about all of the consequences outlined in clause 3.1.
Sincerely, Lionel Andres Messi.
So Messi was forced to stay put, but made his feelings clear about his dismay for the current club ownership – particularly Bartomeu – with whom he had fallen out with spectacularly.
He was also unhappy with director Eric Abidal, who had criticised players for their performances on the pitch, and after agreeing to stay for another year, he gave an explosive interview revealing what had gone behind the scenes.
‘When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama,’ he told Goal.
‘The whole family began crying, my children did not want to leave Barcelona, nor did they want to change schools.
‘I looked further afield and I want to compete at the highest level, win titles, compete in the Champions League. You can win or lose in it, because it is very difficult, but you have to compete.
‘At least compete and let us not fall apart in Rome, Liverpool, Lisbon. All that led me to think about that decision that I wanted to carry out.
Messi had fallen out with club directors and saw no option but to leave with Barcelona falling apart both on and off the pitch
‘As I said, I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not.
‘The burofax was to make it official in some way. Throughout the year I had been telling the president that I wanted to leave, that the time had come to seek new goals and new directions in my career.
‘He told me all the time: ‘We’ll talk, not now, this and that’, but nothing. The president did not give me a clue at what he was really saying.
‘Sending the burofax was making it official that I wanted to go and that I was free and the optional year – I was not going to use it and I wanted to go.’
Messi played out his final season to the best of his ability, still having a sensational season with 38 goals before sealing a free transfer to PSG.
WAYNE ROONEY – MANCHESTER UNITED
Like Messi at Barcelona, Rooney’s shock transfer request shook Manchester United to the core in October 2010 – having just enjoyed the best season of his career with 27 goals and expressed his happiness at the club.
Sir Alex Ferguson himself admitted he was ‘dumbfounded’, especially with no particular club lined up to sign him – with many now speculating that it was a ruse to get United to offer him a lucrative new deal.
‘We are as bemused as anyone can be, we can’t quite understand why he would want to leave,’ Ferguson said at the time.
Wayne Rooney triggered the wrath of Sir Alex Ferguson after demanding to leave in 2010
‘I was dumbfounded. Only months before he was saying he was at the greatest club in the world.’
Explaining his surprising bombshell in his Amazon documentary, Rooney said: ‘We’d sold Tevez, then we’d sold Ronaldo, so I was the one player left who was high profile.
‘I went into Alex Ferguson’s office and I said to him ‘what’s the plan here? At the minute we’ve brought two young English players in who are unproven’, and I remember Alex Ferguson’s response was ‘Get out my office!’
‘They [United] were offering me a contract of five years on £200,000 a week, so it would have been quite easy to say ‘let me sign it now!’
‘But I wanted success on the pitch because that means more to me.’
Rooney eventually did back down over his demands after being ‘convinced Manchester United was where I belong’, but the damage he had done to the dressing room left a lasting impression – and not a good one.
Rooney was left questioning his future after United sold key players without replacing them
Gary Neville revealed how his announcement hit the team ‘like a ton of bricks’ and admitted he felt the player let himself and the squad down.
‘The one big disappointment I had with Wayne was when he announced [he wanted to leave] publicly, just as we were walking into the changing room,’ Neville said.
‘His teammates were playing a game. Don’t do that to us. Take your s*** somewhere else. It’s on Sky Sports News, beamed into us. It literally hit us like a ton of bricks, because this wasn’t him. He could never damage his teammates, he was a team player.
‘That was the only time that I’ve ever thought he let himself down.’
LUIS SUAREZ – LIVERPOOL
Remember when Liverpool weren’t a dominant force in football? Back in 2013 a man named Luis Suarez was carrying them as they club struggled to qualify for the Champions League, and that summer he had enough of their failures.
Unthinkable in present day, but Arsenal had come in for him looking to offer him the allure of Europe’s elite – making an infamous offer of £40million + £1 – under the impression that the bizarre bid would be enough to meet his release clause.
But Liverpool were baffled by the approach, while owner John Henry tweeting ‘What are they smoking at the Emirates?’ The Gunners were wrongly advised – and embarrassingly so – that Suarez had such a clause in his contract.
Luis Suarez was sent to rot in the reserves by Brendan Rodgers in 2013 after plotting a move to Arsenal, who infamously bid £40m+£1
Still, Suarez was prepared to go to north London if Liverpool had accepted a bid – such was his dismay for how stale life had become at Anfield.
He was at war with manager Brendan Rodgers over alleged broken promises about being able to leave at the end of the 2012-13 campaign.
The Uruguayan claimed Rodgers had given him a verbal promise that he could leave that summer and pushed on with his desire to leave.
Liverpool took strong action against Suarez, sending him to rot in the reserves ‘until he started to show respect’, with even the PFA not on his side as they told him any legal action he filed against the club would likely fail as Rodgers’ supposed promise had not been in writing.
In the end, it was a swift intervention from Reds skipper Steven Gerrard that convinced Suarez to stay another year – telling him he would be better served waiting it out and joining a bigger club rather than playing for Arsenal.
It was Steven Gerrard who convinced Suarez to stay another season instead of joining Arsenal
‘I’m about to go to Arsenal, forcing myself to go, and Steven tells me ‘I promise that if you stay this year you’re going to take off and next year you’ll go to Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid or whichever one you want, but stay this year because you won’t be better off at Arsenal’.
‘This was the last conversation I had with Gerrard at that moment and I told my agent that I had made my decision and I was staying.
‘His words convinced me in that moment. They came from a person who cared for me, who wanted my well-being, who saw me suffer during training and saw me sad.
‘They were words from a true captain that had an impact in that moment and helped me a lot.’
Suarez would play a crucial role in Liverpool’s title challenge that season – as they agonisingly missed out on the Premier League crown, but finished second.
They secured the Champions League that Suarez craves, but he did exactly as Gerrard suggested and waited for a big club to come calling – and joined Barcelona in a £75million deal.
CARLOS TEVEZ – MAN CITY
Refusing to play for your manager is never a good idea for a player – the ultimate burning of bridges.
In 2011, Man City boss Roberto Mancini had benched star striker Carlos Tevez for Manchester City’s 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich, and the player dug his heels in when asked to come on.
Mancini said there was no way back for him. Tevez’s future had already been mired in uncertainty, with the Argentine suggesting he was keen to go, and this was the final nail in the coffin at the time.
‘No. If we want to improve like a team, like a squad, Carlos cannot play with us,’ Mancini said. ‘With me, no – it is finished,’ he said after the game.
Carlos Tevez infuriated his Man City boss Roberto Mancini by refusing to come off the bench
‘It may not be my decision but if I’m deciding then, yes, he goes. For me, if a player earns a lot of money playing for Manchester City in the Champions League and he behaves like this – he cannot play again. Never.
‘He has wanted to leave for the last two years. For two years I have helped him, and now he has refused to play. Never again. This can never happen at a top club that one player can refuse to help his team-mates in an important match like tonight.
‘In the next day I’m sure I will speak with Khaldoon [al-Mubarak] because he is the chairman and he will decide everything but let me ask a question: Do you think at Bayern Munich a player would ever behave like this. At Milan? At Manchester United? No. That is the answer. It is the same for everyone.’
‘I make the decision [about substitutions], not Carlos. For me, it’s a bad situation because it’s impossible if a player decides he will not help the team. It’s impossible. We have 11 players and I can’t accept that one player refused to go on to the pitch. I can’t accept this.’
Mancini told Tevez he was ‘finished’ after the row in 2011, but the Argentine did play again
After his lengthy rant, Tevez claimed he had done nothing wrong and simply wasn’t in a condition to come on – simply saying: ‘I didn’t feel right to play, so I didn’t.
When told he may be outcasted by City, he said: ‘I was top goalscorer here last season, I always act professionally so it is up to [Mancini].
It proved to be a bad season for Tevez as he scored just four times in all competitions from 15 appearances amid his row with Mancini – but he did play again for the club, just one more season in 2012-13.
He scored 17 times overall as City finished runners up to Manchester United, before leaving for Juventus.
DIMITAR BERBATOV – TOTTENHAM
Bulgarian sensation Berbatov played the game with a certain flamboyance and nonchalance that made him unique – and those characteristics were the same off the pitch. Many called him lazy and when he effectively went on strike from Tottenham in 2008, he did nothing to dispel that image.
The forward was being chased by Manchester United after a stunning two years at Spurs that saw him net 23 goals in successive seasons.
Tottenham had just finished in mid-table under Juande Ramos while United were the all-consuming force of English football, and Berbatov took his shot while Spurs were preparing for the start of the 2008-09 season – by refusing to play.
Dimitar Berbatov dug his heels in at Spurs in 2008 by refusing to play amid Man United interest
Club chairman Daniel Levy, discussing the saga later that year, said his behaviour was ‘disappointing’ and ‘disrespectful’.
‘The reality is, in modern football, the players have all the power,’ he said.
‘We had a player, in Berbatov, who had refused to play two games for us, which had a detrimental effect on the dressing room.
‘We were very disappointed. Dimitar Berbatov was a player who we brought to this club at a time when Manchester United were interested in him. He made a conscious decision to come to this club, we invested a lot of money, not many people had ever heard of Dimitar Berbatov when we bought him.
He eventually got his move – with chairman Daniel Levy accusing him of lacking respect
‘I don’t think Berbatov treated this club with the respect that we honestly deserved. We put him on the map, I think he’s an outstanding player, but he signed a long-term contract with this club and I think he should have stayed.
‘I had so many conversations with him. He kept saying it was about his ambition to play for Manchester United. It wasn’t a money issue. We offered him a new contract and he wasn’t even interested in discussing it.’
Levy – in typical fashion – played hardball before reluctantly agreeing to let him leave on the final day of the transfer window, racking up a fee of £31million for his star man, in a window that had already seen his strike partner Robbie Keane leave.
Berbatov would go on to flourish as a player at Old Trafford, scoring 56 times in 149 games and winning five trophies.