Lionel Messi announces that he will stay with Barcelona this season
Ten days after after Lionel Messi told Barcelona that he wanted to leave the club, the world’s best player announced he would play least one more season in Barcelona “to avoid a legal war.”
Messi made the announcement to Goal on Friday afternoon, not long after ESPN’s Moi Llorens and Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano also tweeted that Messi would be staying.
The news comes less than two weeks after Messi, 33, told Barcelona that he intended to leave the club he left his native Argentina to join almost 20 years ago. Messi has been unhappy with the club for some time, he said Friday — frustration that boiled over when Barca was trounced 8-2 by Bayern Munich last month in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Messi contended that he was a free agent, a clause in his contract giving the right to walk away following the 2019-20 season. But Barcelona insisted that the clause had expired and that the final season of the five-year deal he inked in 2017 remained in effect, as did his $834 million release trigger, which any club that wanted him would’ve had to meet.
La Liga ultimately sided with the club. Barca refused to budge from its stance during meetings with Jorge Messi, the player’s father and chief representative, earlier this week.
“I thought and was sure that I was free to leave,” Messi told Goal.com in an interview. “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,” Messi added. “The president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700 million clause, and that this is impossible.”
Messi reportedly hoped to move to English Premier League power Manchester City, which is coached by Pep Guardiola, his former manager in Barcelona. But after City made it clear that it would only sign Messi on a free transfer, and with Messi unwilling to enter a protracted legal battle with Barcelona, Messi decided that staying at the Nou Camp this season was his best option.
He’ll now be able to leave for free when his contract expired next summer. Given the bitter way this saga played out, it’s next to impossible to see him re-signing with Barcelona beyond that.
Messi didn’t hold back in blasting the club’s operation under president Josep Bartomeu.
“The management of the club led by Bartomeu is a disaster,” Messi said, according to Romano. “... 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.”
Messi has helped lead Barcelona to 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns since 2004, winning a record six Ballon d’Or awards along the way.
“I love Barcelona and I'm not going to find a better place,” he said. “Still, I have the right to decide. I was going to look for new goals and new challenges.”
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