A small group of Barcelona supporters have quietly begun a process that could lead to seismic change in European football, after they were taken to court over Lionel Messi’s move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Lawyers appeared before a senior judge at the European Court of Justice on Tuesday to argue that Messi’s transfer from Catalonia to Paris breached EU state aid laws and ask the European Commission to investigate the transfer .
The session in Luxembourg lasted three hours before Judge Marc Jaeger, former president of the court. The hearing was effectively an appeal, after an initial complaint against the European Commission was dismissed. The verdict is expected within two months.
Messi joined PSG last summer in perhaps the most publicized transfer of modern times. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner left on a free transfer and agreed a three-year deal worth £94million. Last month, UEFA found that PSG breached its Financial Fair Play rules during this period and demanded 65 million euros as a financial settlement.
The Barca supporters’ case argues that French football authorities should never have cleared Messi’s transfer and that he distorted the competitive environment of continental football. But by calling for a European Commission investigation into the deal, they also hope to move the world of football finance away from the game’s governing bodies and into the purview of EU lawmakers for the first time.
According to the notes provided by the European Court, the full request of the group of supporters would lead to the reversal of the initial decision of the court and the instruction of the commission “to order the French Football Federation to immediately cease all … distortion of competition and resolve to comply with UEFA’s club licensing and financial fair play regulations”. She also asks the committee to take legal action against the French government, for “illegal state aid to PSG and French football clubs in national and European competitions”.
The case was heard in the context of a dispute over the future of European football. Despite the collapse of the Super League last year, there is constant tension between clubs, competitions and their governing bodies. The three remaining ‘super league’ clubs – Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid – have sued UEFA, claiming the governing body acts as a monopoly.
PSG have insisted signing Messi does not breach FFP regulations and on Tuesday a source said: “There’s nothing to comment on – PSG aren’t even a party to the game. affair.” The Professional Football League, which manages France’s major leagues and operates under the authority of the FFF, has been approached for comment.