A tearful Lionel Messi bid goodbye to FC Barcelona after the player and the club failed to agree to extend his stay.
Messi, who was a free agent since July 1 at the end of his contract, was expected to sign a fresh five-year deal with Barca ahead of the upcoming La Liga season.
“I thought it was all sorted, all agreed, then in the last moment, it was not possible due to La Liga issue. That is what happened. I cannot say about the club, Laporta says they cannot due to La Liga. I can only say I did everything possible to stay here,” said Messi in a press conference, which was attended by his teammates.
“I offered to reduce my contract by 50 per cent and they asked for nothing else. The news of me asking 30% more is a lie. A lot of what people are saying are not true.”
Messi had tried to leave Barcelona in August 2020, making a formal request for an exit after a break down in his relationship with then president Josep Maria Bartomeu but successor Joan Laporta, who presided over the Argentine’s rise to greatness, convinced him to stay.
“This is the end with this club and now a new story will begin. Yes, it’s one of the most difficult moments for me. I don’t want to leave this club, it’s a club I love and this is a moment I didn’t expect.
“Last year I wanted to leave, this year I wanted to stay, that’s why I’m so sad,” said the 34-year-old.
On his rumoured link to Paris Saint-Germain, “[It is] One possibility. I have nothing confirmed with anybody, I had a lot of interest and had a lot of calls when Barcelona made the announcement. But we are talking about a lot of things.”
Speaking of his time at the club, “This is really difficult for me. After so many years, being here my entire life, I’m not ready for this … Today, I have to say goodbye to all of this.
“After 21 years, I am leaving with my wife, with my three little Catalan-Argentine kids, and I can’t … This is our home. I promised our children that [we’ll be back]. I’m really grateful for everything.
“I never imagined having to say goodbye because I never thought of it. But I never imagined it this way.”