Football legend Lionel Messi confirmed on Friday that he will stay at La Liga giants FC Barcelona, saying he wouldn’t want to get into a legal battle with “the club of his life”.
In an interview with Goal.com, the 33-year-old launched a stinging attack on Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, accusing him of going back on an agreement to let him leave for free at the end of last season.
Messi had said he wanted to leave the club he joined as a boy after Barcelona’s humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in August. His lawyers sent a burofax stating his intention to go for free on August 25 but Messi says he had made his feelings clear to Bartomeu many times before.
Despite his unhappiness, Messi insists he will give his all for Barcelona next season under their new coach Ronald Koeman, with his current contract due to expire in June next year.
Messi was absent from pre-season training last week as he continued to try to force a move.
Here are excerpts from the Messi interview with Goal.com:
“I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, that gave me everything since I arrived, it is the club of my life, I have made my life here.”
“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.”
“I told the club, the president in particular, that I wanted to leave. They know this since the start of the last 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.”
“The truth is that there is no project at this club. They just plug holes as and when things happen. I would never go for a war against the club of my life. That’s why I’m staying.”
“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 didn’t end up keeping his word.”
“I thought and we were sure that I was free. The president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not and now they hold on to the fact that I did not say it before June 10 when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for the league in the middle of this shitty virus and this disease that altered all the dates.”
“And this is the reason why 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-euro release clause. That’s impossible.”
“When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife, it was a brutal drama. The whole family began crying, my children did not want to leave Barcelona. But I’ve been telling the president and the club that I want to leave all year long!”
“I believed that the club needed more young people, new people and I thought my time in Barcelona was over, feeling 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 goals, new horizons.”
“It wasn’t because of the Champions League result against Bayern, I had been thinking about it for a long time. I told the president and 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.”
“I am going to continue at Barca and my attitude is not going to change, no matter how much I have wanted to go. I will do my best. I always want to win, I am competitive and I don’t like to lose ever... I said before we couldn’t win the Champions League. Now I don’t know what will happen.”
“There is a new coach and a new idea. That’s good, but then we have to see how the team responds and if it means we can compete or not. What I can say is that I’m staying and I’m going to give my best.”