Lionel Messi Explained Why He’s Decided To Not Leave Barcelona In An Explosive Interview

After weeks and weeks of speculation and reports indicating that he was on his way out, Lionel Messi has reversed course and announced his decision to stay at Barcelona. In an exclusive interview with Goal, Messi explained his decision to not seek a move to England, France, or Italy, citing his current club’s hard-line stance about the circumstances under which he would be allowed to leave.

“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 said, per Goal’s Rubén Uría. “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.”

As a quick explainer, Messi has a clause in his contract that lets him opt out for free at the end of the year. While the club contends there was a set date, Messi’s argument has been that “end of the year” is not explicitly defined as a certain date, and as such, the COVID-19 pandemic and the hiatus it caused pushed his timeline back. Because Barcelona refused to acknowledge this, their stance was that clubs who wanted him needed to pay his release clause, which no one would do, because even without the pandemic’s impact on the sport’s finances, €700 million is a ludicrous amount of money.

There was a third option Messi could pursue: Take the club to court and get the situation ruled upon. That is, essentially, the nuclear option, and Messi made clear he had no interest in pursuing this.

“There was another way and it was to go to trial,” Messi said. “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.”

What Messi could do, though, is express his unhappiness with the way things are going at the club, which blew its lead atop La Liga and fell 8-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, the latest in a long line of embarrassing losses for Barcelona in that tournament. In particular, Messi went after the club’s deeply unpopular president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who was steadfast that Messi’s full release clause had to be paid or else he could not leave.

Messi also stressed his belief that Bartomeu lied to him, saying “I told the president and, well, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not keep his word.”

Now, the greatest player of all time is staying at the only club he’s even known, much to the chagrin of those — namely English giants Manchester City, which Messi had reportedly expressed his desire to play for — that wanted to acquire his services. Having said this, it appears there is major unrest at Barcelona that needs to be resolved, particularly with the leadership of Bartomeu (who is up for reelection next year) and the club’s embattled board. Should these problems not get solved, perhaps we can end up back here again next year, as Messi’s current contract ends on June 30, 2021.