Lionel Messi has put an end to speculation about his future by confirming that he will stay at Barcelona, though he hardly sounds happy about it.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner sent shockwaves through the footballing world last week when he informed Barcelona that he intended to leave, and he hoped to do so for free given an apparent clause in his contract.
There was always a strong suspicion that Messi’s agitation for a move was an attempt to prompt overhaul within the clubs hierarchy, the Catalan giants having endured a rare trophyless season under Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien.
However, despite the Argentine’s angling for an exit amid reported interest from Manchester City, La Liga have twice confirmed that Messi’s €700 million (£624m) release clause is still in place, while Barcelona – despite their need to rebuild – were not willing to negotiate about a potential exit of their talisman.
Barcelona are NOT considering to let Messi leave for free or for any fee negotiated with Manchester City. The club position is still the same: €700m or Leo will not move. And they’re absolutely convinced he’s gonna stay. 🚨 #FCB #transfers #Messi
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 4, 2020
After a day of stories about the 33-year-old’s future, he has now conceded defeat in his attempt to leave, citing his side’s inability to ‘compete’ on the biggest stage over recent seasons as a reason for wanting to depart.
“When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama,” Messi told Goal.
“The whole family began crying, my children did not want to leave Barcelona, nor did they want to change schools.
“But 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 for it 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 believed he was free to leave the Camp Nou this summer after informing the club of his desire to leave within 10 days of the end of the campaign as per an apparent clause in his deal, only for Barcelona to insist that such a clause was only valid within 10 days of the original finish date of the campaign which was due to be completed on May 30th, contrary to promises by club president Josep Bartomeu.
“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,” said Messi.
“Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for La Liga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season.
“And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club. Now I am going to continue in the club because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700 million clause, and that this is impossible.”
🚨 WORLD EXCLUSIVE 🚨
Lionel Messi will NOT be leaving Barcelona, we can confirm.
We sat down with the man himself to clear up a few things 🐐
Here's what he had to say: pic.twitter.com/NfnhGpZpXc
— Goal (@goal) September 4, 2020
He insists his transfer request was not a reaction to Barcelona’s 8-2 humbling by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, saying he has been thinking about leaving ‘for a long time’ – again criticising Bartomeu for reneging on his ‘word’.
“I told the club, including the president, that I wanted to go. I’ve been telling him that all year. I believed it was time to step aside,” Messi said.
“I believed that the club needed more young players, new players and I thought my time in Barcelona was over. I felt very sorry because I always said that I wanted to finish my career here.
“It was a very difficult year, I suffered a lot in training, in games and in the dressing room. Everything became very difficult for me and there came a time when I considered looking for new ambitions.
“It did not come because of the Champions League result against Bayern, no – I had been thinking about the decision for a long time.
“I told the president and, well, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not keep his word.”
However, having been with the Spanish side since the age of 14, Messi insisted he couldn’t possibly take his beloved club to court in order to force an exit, before branding Bartomeu’s presidency ‘a disaster’.
“There was another way and it was to go to trial,” he added. “I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, which gave me everything since I arrived.
“It is the club of my life, I have made my life here.
“Barca gave me everything and I gave it everything. I know that it never crossed my mind to take Barca to court.”
“I love Barcelona and I’m not going to find a better place than here anywhere. Still, I have the right to decide. I was going to look for new goals and new challenges. And tomorrow I could go back, because here in Barcelona I have everything.”
“I wasn’t happy and I wanted to leave,” he added. “I have not been allowed this in any way and I will stay at the club so as not to get into a legal dispute. The management of the club led by Bartomeu is a disaster.”