Lionel Messi has ended speculation about his future by confirmed he will stay at Barcelona in an interview with Goal.
The bombshell revelation puts an end to weeks of intrigue and drama over the Argentine’s future after he told the club he wished to leave on a free transfer this summer following their disastrous ouster from the Champions League.
The 33-year-old, who has spent 20 years at the Catalan club, believed a clause in his contract permitted him to leave for free but Barcelona say this is not the case as the timeframe for exercising the option elapsed after June 10 – when the season was still on as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The club insisted his release clause of €700m must be paid to effect his departure.
Messi has now acknowledged this is impossible and told goal.com that he would now stay for the 2020-21 La Liga season to avoid a legal battle with the “club of my life”.
“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,” Messi told Goal.
“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. 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 this is impossible.”
The Argentine forward admitted the while drama has been a harrowing and traumatic experience for his young family who were devastated when he told them of his intentions to leave the Nou Camp.
“When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama,” Messi said.
“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.”
The club’s decision not to honour his wish meant the only way out was a potentially damaging and lengthy legal battle and Messi said he would never contemplate taking his beloved club to court.
“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.”
Messi added: “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.
“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.”
Messi is in the final year of his contract and will be free to leave the club after next season if he doesn’t sign an extension.
The forward who is Barca’s all time top scorer and who has won six Ballon d’Or titles will now prepare to start the season under new Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman.