BARCELONA (UPI) — Barcelona star Lionel Messi, widely considered one of the top players in soccer history, said he will remain with the La Liga club after failing to void his contract.
Messi’s decision — announced in a video interview published Friday by Goal.com — comes after days of speculation triggered by the Argentine star’s attempt to rescind his contract Aug. 25. Messi and his representatives believed a clause in his pact should have allowed him to leave Barcelona for free this summer.
Barcelona believes opt-out clause expired
Barcelona believed that clause had expired and could no longer be exercised, sparking a standoff between the two sides. La Liga heavily supported Barca’s position, saying it would not process Messi’s transfer unless his release clause was paid.
“I would never take the club I have played my entire life for to court, and that is why I am staying in Barcelona,” Messi said. “It was a tough decision. I always said I wanted to end my career here and I do.
“… I thought and was sure that I was free to leave. [Barcelona] President [Josep Maria Bartomeu] 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.
“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 [about $823 million] clause, which is impossible.”
Messi’s contract was to expire in 2021
The 33-year-old Messi, whose contract expires in 2021, could still decide to backtrack and leave the club, but other teams would have to pay his expensive release clause.
For now, Messi will rejoin his teammates as they try to rebound from a trophy-less 2019-20 season that saw them finish second in La Liga behind Real Madrid. Barcelona also suffered an 8-2 blowout loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals.
“It doesn’t come from the Bayern result, it comes from many things,” Messi said about why he initially wanted to leave. “I always said I wanted to end my career here, and I always said I wanted to stay here. I wanted a winning project and to win trophies with the club.
“… The truth is that for a while there hasn’t been a project or anything, they’ve been juggling things and plugging holes as things happen. I’ve always thought about the well-being of my family and the club.”
Messi had interest from several major clubs
Messi reportedly attracted interest from several major clubs, including Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Juventus after speculation emerged about his future. Those teams now must wait until the expiration of his contract next year or pay Messi’s expensive transfer fee.
Messi, a six-time Ballon d’Or winner, made his league debut for Barcelona in 2004. During his time with the club, he has helped Barca win 10 league titles and four Champions League trophies.
Reporting by Connor Grott
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