An emotional Lionel Messi says he did not want to leave Barcelona but that a move to Paris Saint-Germain is not confirmed.
Messi was in tears as he received a standing ovation in his final Barcelona press conference to announce the end of his 21 years with the club.
Barcelona confirmed the six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s departure on Thursday night, the same day he returned to Catalonia following his post-Copa America holiday.
Messi had travelled to Barcelona expecting to agree on the details of the announcement of his new five-year deal, and he confirmed he offered to reduce his wages by 50 per cent.
“This year, my family and I were convinced we were going to stay at home, that’s what we all wanted more than anything,” said Messi.
“We’d always made this our own, we were at home. We thought we would be staying here in Barcelona. But today, we have to say goodbye to all of this.”
I’ve heard things said about me, that I didn’t want to continue, but on my life, we did everything we could because I wanted to stay.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta blamed Messi’s exit on the former regime at the club in addition to La Liga spending rules thwarting any hopes of the Argentinian staying in Catalonia.
“I did everything possible and the club, Laporta, they couldn’t do it because of La Liga,” said Messi.
“I’ve heard things said about me, that I didn’t want to continue, but on my life, we did everything we could because I wanted to stay.
“Last year, I didn’t want to stay and I said it; this year, I wanted to stay and we couldn’t.”
He added: “I’m not ready for this. And honesty, with all the nonsense with the burofax, I was convinced of what I wanted to say.
“We thought we would be staying in Barcelona. The time we have had here has been amazing.”
PSG offering two-year deal, Messi: ‘Nothing is confirmed’
PSG are offering Messi a two-year deal worth £25m a year after tax with the option of a further year and are confident the 34-year-old will sign.
Messi has spoken directly with PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino and his lawyers are in Paris working on a deal.
But asked if a move to PSG will be his next move, Messi said: “That is one possibility, to reach those heights.
“I’ve got nothing confirmed with anybody. I had a lot of calls, a lot of interested clubs. At the moment, nothing is closed, but we are talking about a lot of things.”
Inside Messi’s final Barca press conference: ‘He looked very lonely’
Sky Sports News’ Gary Cotterill in Barcelona:
“It is one of those things that is so incredible, you almost don’t believe it’s happening. To be in that room, and it wasn’t a very big room, one half was filled with family, friends and past and present Barcelona players, and the other half with journalists.
“Some 200 journalists weren’t even allowed to get in so I was privileged to be there, and Messi answered question after question. They did well in these Covid times to pull it off as smoothly as they did, and then the platform at the back of the room was filled with cameramen and photographers.
“When he first walked onto the stage, you felt very sorry for him, he looked like a very lonely and sad figure. When he did start talking he was so upset, so choked and very emotional, he could hardly get his words out.
“He left about 10 minutes ago and there were a few hugs for the remaining few well-wishers, including Jordi Alba. Hugging not encouraged in these Covid times, but who could blame him on what is an amazing occasion he didn’t want, an occasion he and others will never forget.”
Analysis: Questions asked of FFP compliance
Sky Sports’ Kaveh Solhekol:
Lionel Messi moving to Paris will raise French football’s profile around the world but serious questions will be asked about PSG’s ability to operate within financial fair play (FFP) rules.
French clubs have been hit extremely hard by the pandemic. Ligue 1 and 2 did not finish their seasons after they were suspended in March last year and the LFP’s €800m-a-year domestic broadcast deal with Mediapro collapsed four months into its first season.
Despite the problems in French football, PSG, backed by their Qatari owners, are confident they can balance their books by selling players and sign Messi without breaking FFP rules.
PSG’s wage bill of €414m in 2019/20 was more than three times that of the next richest club – Lyon’s wage annual bill was €132m.
PSG have already signed Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan this summer for €60m and they have given big contracts to three players who were free agents – Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Georginio Wijnaldum.
They remain in talks with Kylian Mbappe about a contract extension – his current deal runs out next summer.
PSG signing Messi would make it extremely difficult for them to be able to afford to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United this summer.
Any deal for Messi would also be a huge boost for Qatar as it prepares to host the World Cup next year.