“I’ll continue at Barcelona and my attitude won’t change, no matter how much I have wanted to go. I thought my time in Barcelona was over, sadly – I always wanted to finish my career here,” Messi told Goal.
With this statement, Lionel Messi calmed the avalanche of speculations that has surrounded his contract with FC Barcelona over the past weeks.
The saga began following the horror of the Champions League match against Bayern Munich – or so everyone thought, where the German side handed Barcelona 8-2 demolition, in its most humiliating campaign in the Champions League in recent times.
The next few days witnessed a series of changes that started with the sack of Barcelona coach, Quique Setien, sports director, Eric Abidal and announcement by the club’s president, Josep Bartomeu that many players are going to leave.
In the next few days, former Barcelona player, Ronald Koeman was announced as the club’s new coach. Days after, Koeman held a meeting with Messi in his zeal to commence a new era at the Catalan side. It was not clear what was said in the meeting, but the next day, Messi dropped the bombshell – he’s leaving Barcelona.
The news ignited a storm of anxiety in and outside the club. It was the most talked about development on the internet during that week, behind it was a 33 years old whose heart was broken by the club he loved so much.
The controversy dated back to events of the past seasons which made the Bayern match a horrifying sequel. The preceding seasons saw Barcelona losing semi-final matches 1-4 to AS Roma, after a 3-1 first leg lead, and 0-4 to Liverpool after a 3-0 lead, forcing Messi to break his promise of a Champions League trophy. The most devastating part of it all was how humiliating the losses were.
“But I looked further afield and I want to compete at the highest level, win titles, and 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,” he told Goal.
The six-time Ballon D’or winner had pointed to poor management of the club as a reason for the consecutive woes. His agony was aggravated when Barcelona ended the season winning nothing. The club didn’t make it to Copa del Rey’s final, and complacently lost the domestic league to Spanish rival, Real Madrid.
“And the truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by,” Messi said.
The failures have fueled fans’ campaigns, urging Bartomeu to resign. Many believe that the president’s resignation would have calmed the storm.
However, when Messi threw in the towel, Barcelona was not ready to quit. In response to his burofax requesting his transfer, the club said he has €700 million buyout clause, which must be paid before he is allowed to leave. That was the turning point of Messi’s desire to leave the club, and to cap it, La Liga supported Barcelona’s claim.
“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,” he said.
Messi’s attempt to leave Barcelona created unprecedented panic in Spain. Both the club and the league were going to lose staggering amounts of money in TV rights and sponsorship deals, and the only way to avert that is to stop Messi from leaving. So they teamed up to pull the €700 million clause on him knowing that only the court can say otherwise.
“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 (£624m/$823m) clause, and that 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,” he added.
Messi told Goal that another thing that played a big part in his decision to stay at Barcelona is his family.
“When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama,” he said. “The whole family began crying, my children did not want to leave Barcelona, nor did they want to change schools.”
As La Liga and Barcelona celebrate Messi’s turnaround, many wonder if his heart toward the club will ever be the same, particularly under a new coach. The Argentine astro said his attempt to leave his beloved club will not change anything.
“I will continue at Barca and my attitude will not change no matter how much I have wanted to go. I will do my best. I always want to win, I’m competitive and I don’t like to lose anything. I always want the best for the club, for the dressing room and for myself,” Messi told Goal.