Lionel Messi has confirmed that he will remain with Barcelona for the 2020/21 season.
The Argentine forward had made it clear in the weeks following Barca’s 8-2 Champions League humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich that he intended to leave the Camp Nou, with Manchester City touted as his most likely destination.
However, a dispute between the player and the club regarding a release clause complicated the process. Messi has a clause in his contract which allows him to leave on a free transfer at the end of every summer. That clause expired on June 10 but Messi still attempted to activate it, citing the disruption of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic as grounds to do so.
Barcelona, on the other hand, and backed by La Liga, believe Messi’s €700m release clause still stands and that any club wishing to secure the player’s signature would have to meet the financial demands set in place.
Earlier on Friday, Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, had refuted Barcelona and La Liga’s claim regarding the release clause, highlighting it as an error on the league’s part.
“We do not know which contract [La Liga] has analysed,” Jorge Messi’s statement began. “Or on what basis it can be claimed that that contract contains a “retention clause” which remains valid if the player had decided unilaterally to leave the club on completion of the 2019/20 season.
— barcacentre (@barcacentre) September 4, 2020
“This is due to an obvious error on your [La Liga] part. Thus, as stated in clause 188.8.131.52 of the contract signed between the club and the player, ‘this compensation will not apply on termination of the contract by unilateral decision, effective from the end of the 2019/20 season.
“Without prejudice to the other rights that are included in the contract and that you omit, it is obvious that the compensation of €700m, provided for in the clause 184.108.40.206, does not apply at all.”
In quick response to Jorge Messi’s statement, La Liga published one of their own reiterating their belief that the player’s €700m clause still stands and that his party has interpreted parts of the contract out of context.
Translated, their response reads: “La Liga has responded to the message sent from the representatives of the player, Leo Messi.
“The aforementioned message shows and confirms the decontextualised interpretation of the contract from Messi. La Liga reiterates the stance in the communication published on August 30.”
TyC Sports, a broadcaster based in Argentina, had also reported on Friday that Messi had decided to stay at Barcelona.
💣💣💣 Adelanto exclusivo de https://t.co/dF4H5wuxzg: ¡MESSI SE QUEDA EN BARCELONA! 💣💣💣
— TyC Sports (@TyCSports) September 4, 2020
And despite the fallout between the league, club and his representatives, Messi has now confirmed those reports in an interview with Goal, confirming he will stay with the Blaugrana.
“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.”
Addressing the contract situation, Messi says he will now stay with Barcelona because it will be “impossible” for any club to meet his €700m release clause.
“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 added.
“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 only other escape Messi saw from the club was by taking it to court to dispute the contract disagreement. However, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner says he would “never” do that to club that he “loves”.
“There was another way and it was to go to trial,” he 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.”