Soccer icon Lionel Messi has told Barcelona that he intends to leave the club via an exit clause in his contract, according to reports out of Argentina and the Associated Press. Messi, who at 33 has been named world player of the year a record six times, has been with Barcelona for his entire professional career after relocating from his native Argentina to Spain at the age of 13. He has helped lead Barcelona to 10 Spanish league championships, six Copa del Rey crowns and four Champions League titles, most recently in 2015. But this past season, Barcelona went without a trophy for the first time since 2007-08 and most recently was seen suffering an embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals, its most recent in a string of European humiliations. Messi’s contract with Barcelona, signed in 2017 and running through 2021, gave him the right to depart between seasons for free. At issue is whether that clause expired in June, when the soccer season was supposed to end before the novel coronavirus pandemic extended things into the summer. According to the AP, Barcelona is seeking legal advice over whether Messi missed the window to break his contract. Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are among the clubs that would have the financial wherewithal to sign Messi. According to ESPN, Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola and Messi spoke on the phone last week of a move to Man U.
Fire too hot for Cincinnati
Álvaro Medrán and Ignacio Aliseda each scored his first MLS goal, and Chicago beat Cincinnati 3-0 in the Fire’s first game at Soldier Field in nearly 15 years . . . Darwin Quintero scored two goals in four minutes and the Houston Dynamo eased past Sporting Kansas City 5-2 for their first victory of the season . . . Fridolina Rolfö scored early in the second half to give Wolfsburg a 1-0 over Barcelona and a spot in the women’s Champions League final. The German club will play for the title against either Paris Saint-Germain or four-time defending champion Lyon, who will play in the other semifinal Wednesday . . . Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela, the reigning MVP in MLS, is likely to be sidelined for at least a few weeks by a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
BAA unveiling ‘virtual’ plan
The organizers of the Boston Marathon will begin unveiling new plans and enhancements for the “virtual experience” being offered in lieu of an actual race. The 2020 Marathon was canceled in May after initially being postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its place, the Boston Athletic Association offered entrants the opportunity to run a marathon anywhere they choose while still being part of the collective group of runners who had been accepted into the field. On Thursday, the BAA is planning to reveal an app designed only for Boston Marathon Virtual Experience participants that it hopes creates a better sense of community among the runners who have registered and enhances their experience. Runners are expected to do their marathon in one continuous effort, and the honor system is being used for reporting their times. There will not be an official winner declared. The BAA has also moved up the start of the virtual experience time frame to Saturday, Sept. 5. It was originally scheduled to start on Sept. 7 and end on Sept. 14, but after hearing what some runners have planned and reconsidering the calendar, a decision was made to add two weekend days. “The Boston Marathon is so much more than a race, and we are excited to begin sharing the ways we will bring Boston to the world through the Boston Marathon Virtual Experience and seeing how marathoners embrace the spirit of the marathon in their own neighborhoods,” BAA spokeswoman Kendra Butters said. Of the 30,106 runners entered for the marathon on April 20, 17,862 have registered for the virtual experience and that number is expected to increase slightly before it begins. The field will be spread across 96 countries, and all 50 states will be represented.
Lions cancel practice in protest
The Detroit Lions canceled their practice Tuesday as part of a protest of Sunday’s shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis. “Today practice wasn’t on any of our minds,” Lions safety Duron Harmon, a seven-year New England Patriot, said in a video conference with reporters. “What was on our mind is the tragic event, Jacob Blake being shot in his back seven times. Just let that set in and think about that real quick - an unarmed guy trying to get in his car.” . . . San Francisco 49ers star edge rusher Nick Bosa, the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, and rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk will both miss at least one week of practice with lower-body injuries . . . Brown rookie safety Grant Delpit, a second-round pick from LSU, ruptured his right Achilles tendon while going through individual drills on Monday and will undergo surgery . . . Surgery to repair an enlarged heart on Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith has gone as planned, after a false positive COVID-19 test earlier this month led to the diagnosis of the second-year player’s genetic defect. Coach Mike Zimmer said that Smith was “in good shape” after the procedure Monday in Philadelphia, where he’ll stay “for awhile” to recover . . . Cardinals safety Budda Baker got a round of applause from his teammates Tuesday and linebacker Chandler Jones introduced him as the “Money Man” after the 24-year-old two-time Pro Bowler agreed to terms on a $59 million, four-year contract . . Bill Dunn, dubbed a “super scout” for the Pittsburgh Steelers for finding NFL talent at historically Black universities such as John Stallworth, Mel Blount, and Donnie Shell, has been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor.
Flustered, Serena drops match
Serena Williams was flustered when she got called for taking too much time between points, flung away her racket after letting a lead slip away and finished surprisingly meekly in a 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-1 loss to Maria Sakkari at the Western & Southern Open . . . In the men’s bracket, Novak Djokovic’s neck felt much better, and his tennis looked much better, in a 6-2, 6-4 victory over unseeded American Tennys Sandgren that improved the No. 1-ranked man to 20-0 in 2020. He will be eyeing his 18th Grand Slam title at the US Open next week . . . Phil Mickelson fired a 7-under 64 in the second round of his PGA Tour Champions debut at Ozarks National, and at 17 under, has a three-stroke lead over Tim Petrovic and Rod Pampling . . . Kirk Hanefeld (Salem CC) defended his NEPGA Teaching Pro title, defeating Eric Barlow (Winchester CC) on the second playoff hole at LeBaron Hills CC after the pair were tied at 1-over 73 through 18 holes. Jeff Martin (Wollaston GC) card a 3-under par 69 for the head pro championship, edging Frank Dully (Kernwood CC) by a stroke . . . In the WNBA, Layshia Clarendon drove the lane and was fouled with 0.3 seconds left and made both free throws as New York beat the Chicago Sky 101-9 . . . Jamaica’s Minister of Health says legendary sprinter Usain Bolt tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The 34-year-old retired sprinter who won gold in the 100 and 200 meters at the last three Olympics posted a video on social media to explain the situation. He had been quarantining himself as a precaution . . . California’s popular Squaw Valley Ski Resort will change its name because the word “squaw” is a derogatory term for Native American women. The site was the scene of the 1960 Winter Olympics.