European football

Tearful Messi confirms he is leaving Barcelona

Reuters
Tearful Messi confirms he is leaving Barcelona

FAREWELL. Lionel Messi holds an FC Barcelona press conference announcing his departure.

Albert Gea/Reuters

‘I tried to behave with humility and respect and I hope that is what remains of me when I leave the club,’ says an emotional Messi

A tearful Lionel Messi confirmed on Sunday, August 8, he was leaving FC Barcelona after the club said it could no longer afford paying its Argentine talisman’s high wages without jeopardizing its future.

“I tried to behave with humility and respect and I hope that is what remains of me when I leave the club,” an emotional Messi told a news conference as hundreds of fans, many wearing his No. 10 jersey, massed outside Barca’s Camp Nou stadium to bid farewell to the player they called Messiah.

The 34-year-old, who has been at the club for 21 years, becoming its all-time goalscorer with 682, broke down in tears before giving a speech and was greeted by a lengthy standing ovation from the media, current and former teammates and coaches in attendance.

Messi did not say what his immediate plans were, but after French newspaper L’Equipe reported on Friday that he was set to join Paris St. Germain after their manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters that Messi was an “option,” the Argentine confirmed that it was “a possibility.” 

However, he insisted that at this moment in time, he has not agreed a move anywhere.

While Messi did not confirm he would definitely join the Parisians, he said his plans were to carry on playing as long as possible.

“As long as I go on being competitive and as long as my body responds (I’ll carry on playing),” he said. “As long as I can, I will carry on competing.”

Messi said he believed he would be staying at the club, with a five-year deal agreed on a 50% pay-cut, only for a surprise U-turn to happen late last week.

“Honestly, when the elections happened (in March), I spoke with (club president Joan) Laporta, we had dinner and after that I was convinced I would be staying,” he said.

“My contract was never the issue… What I know is that I did everything I could. The club say it could not happen because of LaLiga. I can guarantee you that I did everything I could to stay. Last year I didn’t want to and I said that, but this year it was different.”

All 35 trophies he won during his time at the club were laid out for what the club described would be a private photo session after the news conference.

“This is the toughest moment of my career. When the club told me, I just froze. This is all like a bucket of cold water has been poured over me and we are still coming to terms with it,” he sobbed.

“When I get home, I’m sure it’ll be even worse. But I’ll be surrounded by my loved ones and I’ll carry on playing football, and when I do so, I’m sure it’ll become a bit easier.” – Rappler.com