Lionel Messi is staying at Barcelona ... for now. The soccer superstar told Goal.com that he is staying at the club this upcoming season and won't be leaving, with Manchester City the favorite to sign him once his contract expires. The Barca legend expressed his frustration with the club, and revealed they went back on their word when he asked to leave at the end of the season. Here's what you need to know.
Messi hits out at Barca president
Talks with Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu saw the club remain firm in their stance that if he wanted to leave, the €700 million release clause would need to be met, with Messi's dad and agent Jorge Messi arguing there was no such 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 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 and this disease altered the entire 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 clause, and that this is impossible."
Messi wanted to avoid legal dispute
The only other option at this time was to take Barca to court, but Messi couldn't go through with it.
"There was another way and it was to go to trial. 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."
Messi's salary is believed to be in the region of $34 million this upcoming season, with the contract set to expire on June 30. That means if he completes his contract and it expires, he would become a free agent and join any team without that team having to pay a transfer fee.
If any team wants to buy him before that, they would have to meet that 700 million euro release clause, which is so unlikely.
At this stage, he could stay at the club until next June, and that would give him the opportunity to sign with Manchester City or PSG.
Of course, if he stays for this season, that could buy Barca more time to make him happy and convince him to stay, though it seems like his mind is made up. But in the past, we've seen him make up his mind and things change late.
Where do Barca go from here?
For now, he stays at a club that is looking for a rebuild under new coach Ronald Koeman, and with club expectations as low as they have been in years. Koeman is looking to rebuild the squad after it failed to win a trophy last season for the first time in over a decade.
Ivan Rakitic has completed a transfer to Sevilla and Messi's close friend Luis Suarez could be the next to go. Suarez has agreed to terms to join Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus, according to CBS Sports Champions League correspondent Guillem Balague.
So now it is about bringing in players to make this squad more competitive and hoping the team plays well and convinces Messi to extend his contract. But the expectation as the moment seems to be for him to leave next summer.
What's next for Barca and Bartomeu?
Messi and Bartomeu don't see eye to eye, and that is clear. This whole situation got as far as fans wanting Bartomeu to resign just to keep Messi. The president's tenure is almost over with presidential elections scheduled for next year. Those are scheduled for March, 2021, having been brought forward from June.
Now, nothing is decided, but if candidate Victor Font wins, look out. He's publicly stated his admiration for Barca legend and Messi's former teammate Xavi to take over as coach.
Could Xavi join and be the key piece in convincing Messi to stay?
This isn't his first U-turn
This isn't our first rodeo with Messi involving a dramatic U-turn. Messi has been one to go back on his word in the past. Just four years ago, Messi announced his retirement from the Argentina national team only to then return. It was following the loss to Chile in penalty kicks in the 2016 Copa America Centenario final. He played for the Argentina national team months later but has yet to win a title on the international senior circuit.
Barcelona has also been linked to rumored moves for Lyon winger Memphis Depay and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. We'll see how active Barcelona will be between now and the end of the European transfer window on Monday, Oct. 5.