The Argentine international has revealed his intent to play for the club for another season.
After weeks of disputes, controversy and several unpleasant incidents, it is official. Lionel Messi has reversed his decision to leave FC Barcelona – having announced that he will remain at the club ahead of the upcoming 2020-21 season.
Speaking to Goal, the 33-year-old stressed on the fact that his dedication to Barcelona will not change going forward, despite attempting to force an exit from the club after a disappointing trophyless end to their 2019-20 campaign. In case you missed it, the Catalans were knocked out of the Champions League after a humiliating 8-2 defeat in the quarter-finals against eventual champions Bayern Munich, only a few weeks after surrendering the La Liga title to arch-rivals Real Madrid. This was followed by the sacking of then-manager Quique Setien, who was replaced by former player Ronald Koeman.
Koeman and Messi had a rocky start to their relationship after reports had it that the former Netherlands boss told the six-time Ballon d’Or winner that his privileges at the club will no longer continue. It was after this that the Argentine made up his mind to leave the Camp Nou by activating a clause in his contract that would make him a free agent.
But, all of that has now become a story of the past, with the man himself confirming that he is set to remain with them at least till the end of their 2020-21 campaign.
“I will continue at Barca and my attitude will not change no matter how much I have wanted to go,” Messi told Goal. “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.”
The four-time Champions League winner also spoke on his club’s ongoing drought of European silverware. “I said it at the time that we were not given the support to win the Champions League. Actually, now I don’t know what will happen. There is a new coach and new ideas. That’s good, but then we have to see how the team responds and whether or not it will get us to compete at the top level. What I can say is that I’m staying and I’m going to give my best for Barcelona.”
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Messi admitted that he was hurt by those questioning his commitment to the club that has been his home for the past 20 years, but added that the support of near and dear ones helped him through the difficult phase.
“I didn’t feel alone. There are those who have always been by my side. That is enough for me and strengthens me. But, I did feel hurt by things that I heard from people, from journalists, from people questioning my commitment to Barcelona and saying things that I think I didn’t deserve. It also helped me to see the truth in people.”
“No matter how much I go or stay, my love for Barca will never change,” he stressed.
The 33-year-old also clarified that he will not be moving to court against Barcelona or the rumour-mongers, despite reports to that end from multiple sources. “It has hurt me a lot that things are published against me and above all, that false things are published,” he said, before adding, “Or that they came to think that I could go to trial against Barca in order to benefit myself. I would never do such a thing.”
“I repeat, I wanted to go and it was entirely my right because the contract said that I could be released. And it is not, ‘I’m leaving and that’s it’. I was leaving and it cost me a lot.”
“I wanted to go because I thought about living my last years of football happily. Lately, I have not found happiness within the club,” the 2014 FIFA World Cup runner-up went on. “I had a bad time this year, so I felt that I needed a change and new goals, new things.”
“But, to decide there was somewhere better than here was difficult. I always put the club before anything else. I had the possibility of leaving Barca many times. Every year I could have left and earned more money than at Barcelona. I always said that this was my home and it was what I felt and feel.”
One of the biggest factors that influenced Messi’s decision was his family. “When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama,” he said, before adding, “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.”
However, his desire to leave was brought to an unexpected halt by club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who Messi claims did not honour a promise. As per the player, Bartomeu had promised that he could leave on a free transfer at the end of the 2019-20 season.
“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,” he reiterated.
“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 LaLiga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season. 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 €700m release clause and that this is impossible.”
Of course, Messi could have taken the Blaugrana to court, but he himself revealed that even the thought of doing so had never crossed his mind. “There was another way and it was to go to trial,” he added. “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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Messi also opened up to Goal on the heartbreaking conversation he had with his son, Thiago, who didn’t want to leave, while also praising his wife Antonella for supporting him through all of the backlash he faced in the past few days.
“Mateo is still little and he doesn’t realize what it means to go somewhere else and make your life a few years elsewhere. Thiago, he is older. He heard something on TV and found out something and asked. I didn’t want him to know anything about being forced to leave, to have to live in a new school, or make new friends. He cried to me and said ‘let’s not go’. I repeat that it was hard, really. It was understandable. It happened to me. It is very difficult to make a decision.”
“I love Barcelona and I’m not going to find a better place than here, anywhere. Still, I have the right to decide. I was going to look for new goals and new challenges. And tomorrow I could go back, because here in Barcelona I have everything,” he went on. “My son, my family, they grew up here and are from here. There was nothing wrong with wanting to leave. I needed it, the club needed it and it was good for everyone.”
“My wife, with all the pain of her soul, supported and accompanied me.”
Now that the man himself has cleared the air on his future, he also said that he hopes to find more purpose in the days and months to come. “As usual, I am going to give my best, we will do my best to fight for all the objectives and hopefully I can dedicate myself to the people who have had a bad time.”
“Hopefully, I can give my best and dedicate victories to all those people who accompany us and their families, to be able to dedicate the best to those people who are having a bad time and that we can overcome once and for all this virus and return to normality,” Lionel Messi concluded.