Lionel Messi has officially confirmed that he will stay at Barcelona for the final year of his current contract. The Barca captain was said to have grown tired with the club’s hierarchy, namely current president Josep Maria Bartomeu, after the 8-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich last month and told them of his wish to leave. It was also suggested that he has doubts as to whether Barca are built to challenge for major honours after their first season without a trophy since 2007-08.
Messi’s representatives sent a burofax to the Catalan club on August 25 making it clear that he wanted to cut short his contract and leave as a free agent. He even refused to partake in the club’s coronavirus testing last weekend.
Barca have argued however that the recission clause in the forward’s contract which allows him to leave for nothing has expired despite the extension of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
La Liga have sided with Barca that Messi’s €700m release clause must be met in full for the 33-year-old to leave the Catalan giants.
Messi and his father Jorge were confident that the Argentine would be able to leave for free, with Manchester City among the clutch of elite European clubs keen to pry him away from Spain.
But last Sunday, La Liga said in a statement that they would block Messi – who has spent 20 years at the club – leaving Barca if his extraordinary release clause was not met.
They wrote: “In compliance with the applicable regulations, and following the corresponding procedure in these cases, LaLiga will not carry out the prior visa process for the player to be removed from the federation if they have not previously paid the amount of said clause.”
His father said on Friday that the league had made “a clear error” in their assessment of the situation, insisting that the clause states: “This indemnity will not apply when the player’s decision to unilaterally rescind the contract is effective from the end of the 2019-2020 season.”
He also questioned whether La Liga had even seen the correct contract – but regardless, just hours later, Messi has now confirmed that he will remain at the Nou Camp for another 12 months with the star seemingly reluctant to enter into a lengthy legal wrangle with the Spanish heavyweights.
The club’s all-time top goalscorer, who boasts a sensational record of 634 goals and 256 assists in 731 appearances, sat down with Goal in an exclusive interview and said: “I told the club, especially the president, that I wanted to go. I’ve been telling him all year. He believed it was time to step aside.
“I believed that the club needed more young people, new people and I thought my time in Barcelona was over, feeling it a lot 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 goals, new airs.
“It did not come because of the Champions League result against Bayern, the decision I had been thinking about 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 end up keeping his word.”
Messi added: “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.
“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 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.
“There was another way and it was to go to trial. 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.”
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