Following weeks of uncertainty, Lionel Messi has confirmed that he will be staying at Barcelona for the upcoming season, despite having requested to be allowed to leave.
The 33-year-old on Friday confirmed his U-turn in an interview with goal.com, which comes 11 days after he rocked the footballing world by asking to be allowed to leave before the end of the four-year contract extension he signed in 2017.
While agreeing to stay, Messi made it clear that he was only doing so as the club refused to relent on the 700 million euro release clause in his contract.
"I didn't feel happy this last year at the club. I have been (wanting to leave) all year. I thought the team needed younger players and I thought my epoch at Barcelona had ended. It was a complicated year. I suffered a lot in training, in games and in the dressing room. I wanted to go, and I was in my right to do so, because my contract said I was free. I wanted to go because I was thinking about being happy in my last years in football," he told Goal.com
The striker had argued that the clause in his contract, which is due to expire in June 2021, allowed him to leave on a free transfer at the end of the 2019/20 season and that he wanted to take up the option.
Barcelona, who have been supported by the Spanish football league (La Liga) in the matter, took a different viewpoint, insisting that if he wanted to join a different club, he would have to pay the 700 million euro release clause in his contract.
Under that clause, Messi could leave the club for free if he requested to do so by 10 June, the nominal end of the season. But the 2019/20 La Liga season extended beyond that date due to the COVID-19 pandemic, complicating matters.
Barca was thus not willing to give up on Messi, especially not for free.
Messi's father Jorge flew into Barcelona on Wednesday to meet Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, but that meeting failed to see the two parties move closer to an agreement, raising the possibility of a court case - something Messi insisted he wanted to avoid.
"It really hurt me that people could think I would be able to go to court against Barcelona for my own benefit. I would never do something like that," commented the striker.
However, he was very critical of Bartomeu, accusing him of "not keeping his word" and also criticising the direction of the club in recent years.
"The truth is that for a while there has not been a project and there hasn't been anything. They have tried a juggling act and to paper over the cracks as things have happened," said Messi, who repeated his love for the club and insisted on his commitment in his final year at the Camp Nou.
(With inputs from IANS)
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