Lionel Messi has announced he will stay at Barcelona because the financial outlay required to make his desired exit a reality was “impossible”.
The Argentina superstar sent shockwaves through Camp Nou last week when he announced he wanted to leave Barca in the wake of the humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Messi was of the belief he could leave on a free transfer after activating a clause allowing him to terminate his contract at the end of the season, with Manchester City quickly emerging as favourites for his signature.
LaLiga disputed that claim, though, and insisted any potential suitor would have to negotiate with Barca or pay the €700million release clause in Messi’s contract, with his option to leave for nothing having expired on June 10.
Messi’s father and agent Jorge met Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu to discuss the six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s future on Wednesday, prior to which he stated it would be “difficult” for his son to stay.
However, reports emerged after the meeting that a transfer for Messi would likely start a civil court case, while City were also said to be unable to do a deal if a transfer fee – even one significantly below the release clause – was involved.
Consequently, Messi confirmed on Friday he would not be moving because the option of a free transfer was no longer on the table.
He told Goal Spain: “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.
“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 LaLiga in the middle of this awful coronavirus, and this disease altered all the season.
“This is the reason why I am going to continue with the club.
“Now I am going to continue because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700m clause, and this is impossible.”
Messi is contracted to Barca until June next year and insisted his desire to leave was no snap decision after the Bayern game, having discussed the possibility of a transfer with Bartomeu throughout the season.
“The burofax was to make it official in some way,” he explained. “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, now now, this and that’, but nothing. The president did not give me a clue of what he was really saying.
“Sending the burofax was making it official that I wanted to go and that I was free and the option year [playing for Barcelona in 2020-21] I was not going to use.”
The defeat to Bayern had already plunged Barca into chaos, even before Messi made clear his intentions, with head coach Quique Setien sacked and sporting director Eric Abidal – with whom Messi clashed – also departing.
Ronald Koeman was installed as the new coach but reportedly quickly informed Luis Suarez, Messi’s close friend, he would be among the players moved on.
The status of Barca’s squad heading into the new season is still uncertain, but Messi now says he is committed to performing again at Camp Nou.
“I will continue at Barca and my attitude will not change, no matter how much I wanted to go,” he said. “I will do my best.”
“I always wanted to win, I’m competitive and I don’t like to lose anything. I always want the best for the club, for the dressing room and for myself.
“I said at the time that we were not given the support to win the Champions League. Actually, now I don’t know what will happen. There is a new coach and new ideas.
“That’s good, but then we have to see how the team responds and whether or not it will allow us to compete at the top level. What I can say is that I’m staying and I’m going to give my best for Barcelona.”
The pressure is likely to remain on Bartomeu, however, with Messi giving a damning assessment of how Barcelona have laboured under his watch over recent seasons.
“The truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and
cover holes as things go by,” he added.
“As I said before, I always thought about the welfare of my family and the club.”
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