Bitter Messi to stay at Barcelona
Lionel Messi ended speculation about his future at Barcelona by announcing on Friday that he would reluctantly stay for another season rather than tackle his career-long club in court.
A week after saying he wanted to leave the Liga side, and with a contract row still raging, the 33-year-old six-time World Player of the Year gave the news Barca fans were hoping for.
In doing so, however, the Argentine forward took a big swipe at the club’s hierarchy.
“I wasn’t happy and I wanted to leave. 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,” he was quoted as saying by Goal.com.
“The management of the club led by (president Josep Maria) Bartomeu is a disaster.
“I told the club, the president in particular, that I wanted to leave. They knew this since the start of the past season. I told them during all (of the) last 12 months. But I will stay here because I don’t want to start a legal war.”
By remaining at the Catalan club for the fourth and final year of his contract, Messi is in line for a $83.38 million loyalty bonus and will be able to leave without a transfer fee.
“When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama,” Messi said.
“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 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 praised wife Antonella for standing by his side through all of the backlash for his desire to leave Barca.
“Mateo is still little and he doesn’t realise what it means to go somewhere else and make your life for a few years elsewhere,” he said.
“Thiago heard something on TV and found out something and asked. I didn’t want him to know anything about being forced to leave, to have to live in a new school, or make new friends. He cried to me and said ‘let’s not go’. I repeat that it was hard, really.
“I believed 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,” Messi told the football-specific website.
Earlier on Friday, Messi’s father and representative Jorge had insisted in a letter to La Liga that the $828.03 million release clause in the player’s contract was not valid and his son could leave for free.
However, despite the standoff between the Messi camp and Barcelona and La Liga, the player has ended the impasse and will see out his contract with the club with whom he has won more than 30 major trophies and scored over 600 goals.
The news that Messi will be staying at Nou Camp, albeit reluctantly, will disappoint the clubs who were hoping to sign the iconic forward, including Premier League side Manchester City, managed by former Barca boss Pep Guardiola.
Argentine TV station TYC Sports had reported that Messi was poised to stay with the Catalan club.
The situation was further complicated when Jorge wrote to La Liga president Javier Tebas, dismissing their claim that the release clause still applied if his son wished to leave.