Lionel Messi weepily bids farewell to his boyhood team FC Barcelona
Lionel Messi wept on Sunday as he bade farewell to his boyhood team FC Barcelona and confirmed he was talking with French club Paris St Germain over a possible move.
The 34-year-old Argentine’s emotional news conference followed Barca’s announcement on Thursday that it could no longer afford him after a glittering career of two decades.
French newspaper L’Equipe reported on Sunday that Messi will travel to Paris either on Sunday or Monday to undertake a medical and finalise a deal with the Qatar Sports Investment-owned club.
While Messi did not confirm he would definitely join the Parisians, he said his plans were to carry on playing as long as possible, adding he still harbours ambitions to win another Champions League trophy.
“As long as I go on being competitive and as long as my body responds (I’ll carry on playing),” he told a news conference.
“As long as I can, I will carry on competing.”
PSG declined to comment on the report that Messi would be arriving in Paris later on Sunday. “We are not in a position to confirm anything,” a club spokesman said.
Between trying to compose himself, wiping away tears and facing a long standing ovation, it took Messi more than a minute to start his farewell news conference. He was handed a tissue by his wife Antonella Roccuzzo as he fought back the tears.
“I don’t know if I am going to be able to speak,” were his first words, tears running down his cheeks.
“This is without doubt the most difficult moment of my career,” he said.
Hundreds of fans, many wearing his No. 10 jersey, massed outside Barca’s
Camp Nou stadium to bid farewell to the player they called Messiah.
“I tried to behave with humility and respect and I hope that is what remains of me when I leave the club,” said an emotional Messi.
“When I get home, I’m sure it’ll be even worse. But I’ll be surrounded by my loved ones and I’ll carry on playing football, and when I do so, I’m sure it’ll become a bit easier.”
It had been widely reported by local media that Messi was set to stay at Camp Nou, with the player admitting he had agreed to a five-year deal involving a 50 per cent pay cut.
Barca, whose debts total way over 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion), were unable to make the deal work within the frameworks of La Liga’s financial fair play regulations — prompting their surprise U-turn announcement last Thursday.
“Honestly, when the elections happened (in March), I spoke with (Barca president Joan) Laporta, we had dinner and after that I was convinced I would be staying,” Messi said.
“My contract was never the issue ... What I know is that I did everything I could. The club say it could not happen because of La Liga. I can guarantee you that I did everything I could to stay. Last year I didn’t want to and I said that, but this year it was different.”
Neither Laporta nor any of the other Barcelona directors was present at Messi’s news meet.
All 35 trophies he won during his time at the club were laid out for a private photo session after the event.