Following a tearful farewell message where he confirmed his exit from FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi fielded questions from the media on the matter at a press conference at the Camp Nou early Sunday afternoon.
Messi first validated president Joan Laporta’s claims by saying his new five-year contract was already “settled”, but “because of the La Liga issue”, i.e. the salary cap, “it couldn’t be done”.
“There’s nothing more than that. We had everything agreed and it couldn’t be done,” Messi said.
“I am clear that I did everything possible [to re-sign],” Messi added.
“Laporta said that it was not possible due to a La Liga issue. I heard many things that were said about me. I did everything possible to stay, it was what I wanted. This year I did. And it couldn’t [be done].”
“As I said at the beginning a lot of things are going through my head and at the same time, I am a bit blocked,” Messi revealed.
“The reality of leaving this place, this club. hasn’t sunk in yet. It changed my life completely. I have been in the first team for 16 years and it was always the same for me.
“Now it is [a case of] starting from scratch, changing. [It’s] a hard change, especially for my family because I know how they feel in this city. I know that we are going to adapt and be fine. It is a difficult change, but you have to accept it and start again.”
Probed on whether his new destination would be PSG, Messi conceded it was a “possibility”.
“At this moment in time I have nothing arranged with anyone. Several clubs have been interested and there is still nothing closed. We are talking, obviously.”
Probed on how he would be remembered by the fans, Messi responded: “As I said before, I grew up with the values of this club. [And] I tried to handle myself with humility and respect, to wear the Barcelona shirt around the world.”
“Each person can remember me however he wants, in the way he wants. I am grateful for the career that I had. The titles, the defeats. They made me learn and grow. The joys were more than the defeats. There are many beautiful images. Especially the celebrations with people, sharing it with my family. I have a lot to remember, thank God.”
“I feel sad to leave this club, the one I love. [It comes] in a moment that I did not expect because I never lied, I always went straight ahead telling the truth. Last year I wanted to leave, not this one. That’s why [there’s such] sadness.”
Despite his exit, though, Messi still believes Barca are one of the “best teams in the world” and will be just fine.
“Barca has a very great squad, surely big players will continue to arrive. Players leave, and as Laporta said, the club is always more important than anyone. People are going to get used to it, as always happens with everything. At first it will be strange, but there are good players, a great squad, [and] everything fits.”
Shedding some light on when Laporta became president, Messi revealed that, “The reality is that when the elections happened I went to eat with the president and we talked, we had dinner. After that meal I was quite convinced that I was going to continue, that we were going to fix it. My contract was never a problem. Then what happened, happened. It couldn’t be done and that’s it. We already knew what we had decided and planned to do.”
“Of course,” he affirmed, when asked if he would have liked to have had a proper send off at the Camp Nou. “I would have liked to do it now, when I have to leave. But honestly, it wouldn’t be the same. The moment is now. But obviously for these people I am willing to do anything, of course I am.”
Messi also didn’t subscribe to the idea that fans had been given “false hope” over his renewal. “We were all convinced that it would be possible. It was so clear that it was all fixed, there was no problem. We were always honest with people. As I said before, it did not happen because of what was already commented. From my part I never fooled anyone.”
Already taking a 50% pay cut to stay, he said that accusations he had asked for an extra 30% were “a lie”, and described the news that his new contract wouldn’t be possible as a “jug of cold water”.
“Sad, hard, [and] until today we are assimilating it as best we can. When I leave here it will be even harder, worse. But the important thing is that I will be wrapped up in my family, my loved ones and that I am going to continue playing, which is what I like to do the most. All this will pass me by.”
“The people of Barça know me,” Messi went on.
“They know that I want to continue competing. If I had stayed here I would have fought to win everything and they will understand that I want to continue adding titles. I congratulate [Daniel] Alves for winning the Olympic gold medal [with Brazil yesterday] and I want to go after him [and his record], I am close. The intention was to stay, it couldn’t [be done] and now I have to find my way, [to] compete and keep winning.”
Asked what we could take from the photo he was recently snapped in with several PSG players, Messi said it was “b*llshit”.
“I was going to get together with [Angel] Di María and [Leandro] Paredes, we already said so. We were going to spend the night [there]. Neymar called me and he told me “I’m in Ibiza, let’s meet up”. Everyone, [Marco] Verratti was also there. They told me to go to Paris, it was all a joke, a coincidence and a photo that was given more importance than it has.”
“I don’t know how much time I have left, it depends on how I’m feeling, the physical [side of things],” Messi remarked on retirement.
“Thank God I had no serious injuries in my career, knock on wood. After this is over, many former teammates tell me that it is difficult day to day when you retire. You stop having that routine, it must be hard. Until I can [retire], I will try [to keep playing].”
“Yes, obviously I have the thorn [in my side] to get another Champions League title,” Messi said.
“We were very close, [against] Liverpool, [against] Chelsea with Pep [in two semi-final losses]. We had a generation where we could have achieved another. But this is football, I had to win other things and it is like this. I don’t regret anything, we always try to do our best. We will have that little thorn [in our side], of course. It will be one of my goals, to win the Champions League again and more titles. And catch up Dani [Alves], who is a winner, I had him as a teammate.”
To finish, before posing for photos with his many trophies, Messi reflected: “We did everything possible and it could not be done. I was always face to face with the club members, with the fans. I never lied about anything, I was always transparent. When you don’t talk much you say a lot, you have to fill it in and give your opinion. Not everything that is said is true. I am calm. I was always up front and that was the important thing. We gave everything, we grew up together and we enjoyed everything.”