Lionel Messi has finally broken his silence and confirmed he will stay at Barcelona for the 2020-21 season and see out his existing contract.
The Argentina international spoke to Goal’s Ruben Aria about why he wanted to leave the Catalan giants and the heartbreak the decision has caused him and his young family.
“When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama. 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 also explained that he had not made his decision because of Barcelona’s 8-2 thrashing by Bayern Munich in the Champions League in August but revealed it had arisen “from many things.”
Messi Criticizes Barcelona President
The 33-year-old was also critical of Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu in his inreview. The 57-year-old is deeply unpopular with supporters because of the way the club has been run over recent seasons.
Messi added that he had told Bartomeu “throughout the year” he wanted to leave because “the time had come to seek new goals and new directions in my career.” The forward explained the president had always said he could decide his own future but then “in the end he did not keep his word.”
The Barcelona captain also explained that he did not want to take the Catalan giants to court because of his love for the club but made it clear he is not impressed with the way Barcelona is being run.
“I always said I wanted to end here and I always said I wanted to stay here. That I wanted a winning project and to win titles with the club, to continue expanding the legend of Barcelona.
“And the truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by. As I said before, I always thought about the welfare of my family and the club.”
Bartomeu is due to step down in March when the club will hold elections to determine the new president.
Dramatic Day in Barcelona
The news follows another day of frenzied speculation about his future. His father, Jorge Messi, had issued a statement to La Liga insisting the €700m release clause in his contract is not valid.
La Liga’s response was swift, short and to the point:
“LaLiga has responded to the message received from the representatives of the player Leo Messi. In its response, LaLiga notes that their interpretation of the contract is out of context and far removed from its literal state. LaLiga reiterates its statement.”
Messi’s future has been the subject of intense speculation ever since he informed the Catalan giants by burofax that he did not want to continue and would use a clause in his contract to leave for free.
The Argentina international subsequently opted to sit out the start of pre-season training but is now expected to return imminently and start work under new manager Ronald Koeman at the Camp Nou.
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