Lionel Messi Hopes to Return to Barcelona in Future; Denies PSG Contract Is Done

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2021

Lionel Messi cries at the start of a press conference at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. FC Barcelona had previously announced the negotiations with Lionel Messi had ended and that Messi would be leaving the club. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
Joan Monfort/Associated Press

Barcelona club legend Lionel Messi gave a tearful press conference Sunday, saying he is not ready to leave Camp Nou.

"The truth is I don't know what to say," Messi told reporters. "In these last few days, I have been thinking, giving lots of thought to what I would say. The truth is that I can't think of anything. This is really difficult for me after so many years, being here my entire life. I'm not ready for this."

He added, "I hope I can come back and be part of this club in any way, to help this club be the best in the world."

Guardian sport @guardian_sport

Lionel Messi: "My family and myself were convinced that we were going to stay in our home. That was what we wanted the most. Unfortunately, today I am here to say goodbye after many years" https://t.co/lSJUP5lP2B

His comments come after Barcelona released a statement Thursday saying it couldn't finalize a new contract with him because of "financial and structural obstacles" related to La Liga's financial regulations:

"As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled. FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life."

Messi became a free agent July 1 with the conclusion of his previous contract. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner agreed to a new deal with Barca in mid-July that included a "significant wage reduction," per ESPN's Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens. It couldn't immediately be registered with La Liga, though.

Barcelona President Joan Laporta noted at the start of Messi's foray into free agency the club would need to work through some financial logistics to get the deal officially on its books.

"I know that Leo wants to stay. Talks have been going well, and we are making every effort to ensure that he stays," Laporta said on El Transistor (via AS). "We have to fit in with Financial Fair Play rules. There are a lot of alternatives, and we are studying all of them."

Messi seemed content letting the club work through the behind-the-scenes issues as he won the 2021 Copa America title with Argentina on July 10 and then went on holiday ahead of the 2021-22 season.

Instead, Barca made the shock announcement that his decorated tenure with the club is over. Messi admitted signing with Paris Saint-Germain is a possibility but said nothing is finalized.

"That is one possibility [PSG]. There's nothing closed at the moment, but we're talking about a lot of things. After Barca's statement, a lot of clubs showed an interest. But nothing final, although there are talks, of course," Messi said.

However, ESPN's Sam Marsden and Julien Laurens later reported Messi agreed to a two-year contract with PSG, which could become official later this week.

Marsden and Laurens added, "Sources added that Messi is expected to travel to Paris on Sunday before completing a medical in the coming days and signing a two-year deal with the option for a third season. He could be presented at an event at the Eiffel Tower in the coming days."

The never-finalized contract with Barca had represented a change of heart for the 34-year-old forward, who appeared to have one foot out of Camp Nou last year before a disputed contract clause led him to stay.

Last September, he told Goal's Ruben Uria that previous Barca President Josep Maria Bartomeu decided to enforce a €700 million release clause that made a move "impossible."

"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," Messi said. "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."

Laporta, who previously served as president from 2003 through 2010 during Messi's early years with the club, was elected back to the role in March and salvaged the relationship with the Argentine superstar, but the team couldn't work through the financial issues to re-sign him.

Messi arrived at Barcelona's famed La Masia youth academy in early 2001 and made his first-team debut in a 2003 friendly.

He proceeded to score 672 goals in 778 appearances across all official competitions for the Blaugrana while leading them to 10 La Liga championships, four Champions League titles and numerous other trophies during his two-decade tenure.