A tearful Lionel Messi confirmed that he was leaving FC Barcelona after the club said it could no longer afford to pay the Argentine’s high wages, confirming he was in negotiations with French club Paris St Germain over a possible move.
French newspaper L’Equipe reported on Sunday that the Argentine will travel to the French capital either Sunday or Monday to undertake a medical and finalise his deal with the Qatar Sports Investment-owned club.
While Messi did not confirm he would definitely join the Parisians, he said his plans were to carry on playing as long as possible, adding he still harbours ambitions to win another Champions League trophy.
“As long as I go on being competitive and as long as my body responds (I’ll carry on playing),” he told a news conference.
“As long as I can, I will carry on competing.”
Lionel Messi leaves Camp Nou while saying goodbye to his fans. 😪 pic.twitter.com/7TEkDY5QRy
— MessiTeam (@Lionel10Team) August 8, 2021
Messi said he’d “tried to behave with humility and respect”.
“I hope that is what remains of me when I leave the club,” he said as hundreds of fans, many wearing his No.10 jersey, massed outside Barca’s Camp Nou stadium to bid farewell to the player they called Messiah.
“This is all like a bucket of cold water has been poured over me and we are still coming to terms with it,” he said through tears.
“When I get home, I’m sure it’ll be even worse.
“But I’ll be surrounded by my loved ones and I’ll carry on playing football, and when I do so, I’m sure it’ll become a bit easier.”
It had been widely reported by local media that Messi was set to stay at Camp Nou, with the player admitting he had agreed to a five-year deal involving a 50 per cent pay cut.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi scored their last El Clasico goal on the same day as each other.
The GOATs. ❤️💙🤍 pic.twitter.com/GvpQVMqj8k
— Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) August 8, 2021
Barca, whose debts total more than 1 billion euros ($1.6 billion), was unable to make the deal work within the frameworks of La Liga’s financial fair play regulations – prompting its surprise U-turn announcement last Thursday.
“Honestly, when the elections happened (in March), I spoke with (Barca president Juan) Laporta, we had dinner and after that, I was convinced I would be staying,” Messi said.
“My contract was never the issue … What I know is that I did everything I could. The club say it could not happen because of La Liga.
“I can guarantee you that I did everything I could to stay. Last year I didn’t want to and I said that, but this year it was different.”
Thank you for everything, Lionel Messi. 🐐pic.twitter.com/tDk3rCfT3z
— BettingOdds (@BettingOddsUK) August 8, 2021
La Liga announced last Wednesday that it had secured a private equity injection of 2.7 billion euros from firm CVC, with the funds to be shared among the clubs in return for 10 per cent of the league’s revenue.
It had been believed this would allow Barcelona to get the Messi deal over the line, but Real Madrid rejected the proposal and said it would take legal action against La Liga.
Barca also came out against it.
Messi, 34, who has been at the club for 21 years, becoming their all-time goalscorer with 682, broke down in tears before giving a speech and was greeted by a lengthy standing ovation from the media, current and former teammates and coaches in attendance.
It was noticeable that he was not accompanied by Laporta or any of the other Barcelona directors during the act.