A tearful Lionel Messi confirmed on Sunday he was leaving FC Barcelona after the club said it could no longer afford to pay the Argentine’s high wages, adding he was in negotiations with French club Paris St Germain over a possible move.
It marks the end of an utterly historic run that has seen Messi become one of the greatest players in the history of the beautiful game. From memorable runs to fantastic goals and beyond, the Argentine has firmly cemented his legacy with 10 La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey wins and four Champions League triumphs.
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. He was very emotional before he even made an opening statement.
“I Wanted to stay“
“These recent days, I’ve been giving lots of thought about what I could say, and the truth is that I can’t think of anything,” Messi told a news conference as hundreds of fans, many wearing his number 10 jersey, massed outside Barca’s Camp Nou stadium to bid farewell to the player.
“This is really difficult for me after so many years, being here my entire life, I’m not ready for this and honestly last year with all the nonsense, I was convinced I knew what I wanted to say but this year is not the same.”
Last month Barcelona, battling huge debts, had said they were in agreement in principle with the player and his entourage on a new five-year deal on much-reduced wages.
“The truth is I don’t know what to say,” said Messi, who signed for the Catalan giants as a 13-year-old.
“After 21 years I am leaving with my three Catalan Argentine children,” said Messi, who won 10 league titles with the club.
“I gave everything for this club from the first day that I arrived right to the last. I never imagined having to say goodbye.
Messi about PSG
Last year he asked to leave the club but changed his mind. This time he came to an agreement to stay but financial stumbling blocks at Barca meant La Liga would not allow the deal.
He is out of contract and will leave for free, with Messi, six times a Ballon d’Or winner, saying a Paris Saint-Germain move is now “possible” but that he has no final agreement with anyone at present.