Tearful Lionel Messi bids goodbye to Barcelona; sources say PSG deal agreed
Lionel Messi confirms he’s leaving Barcelona as reports of a PSG move heat up
Lionel Messi said he did not want to leave Barcelona in an emotional farewell news conference on Sunday.
Messi has now received a formal contract offer from PSG but said “nothing is confirmed.”
Messi also has two other potential options after leaving Barcelona.
Lionel Messi has received a formal two-year contract offer from Paris Saint-Germain.
The French club have offered Messi an initial two-year deal, thought to be worth £25m a year after tax, and the six-time Ballon d’Or winner and his representatives are now reviewing and considering it carefully.
Messi also has two other potential options after leaving Barcelona but PSG remain the favourites to sign him.
Barcelona announced Messi would not continue at the club after they were unable to fulfil a new contract that had been agreed with the player due to “financial and structural obstacles”.
The Argentina international has spoken directly with PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino this week about moving to the French capital.
Asked if PSG will be his next move at his farewell news conference on Sunday, 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.”
PSG quickly emerged as the front-runners for his signature, in a move that would reunite him with former Barcelona team-mate Neymar.
Messi said he did not want to leave Barcelona in an emotional farewell news conference on Sunday.
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 Messi’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.”
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Lionel Messi confirms he’s leaving Barcelona as reports of a PSG move heat up
This is really happening, isn’t it?
Days after Barcelona announced Lionel Messi would leave the only club he’d known for 21 years, Messi himself held a media conference at Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium Sunday to confirm his departure.
It comes amid reports from Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano and ESPN’s Julien Laurens that Messi, who became a free agent earlier this summer, is on the verge of joining Paris Saint-Germain.
“I thought we would stay at home. We wanted to stay here and keep enjoying this life we have both personally and professionally, but today I have to say goodbye to all of this,” Messi said Sunday, according to Spanish journalist Guillem Balagué, with his teammates in attendance. “All my life I have been here, arrived very young, after 21 years here, I have a wife, three kids who are Catalan/Argentinean. I will return here, as this is home and I promised my kids.
“I want to thank so many people, players, those that help us. I grew with he values of this club, humbleness, respect and I did that with everyone. I hope that is what they remember of me.”
Why Lionel Messi really might leave Barcelona this time
Breaking down in tears on multiple occasions, Messi delivered the surest sign yet that he’s really not coming back to Barcelona, which he joined as a 13-year-old in 2000.
The club itself blamed his impending exit on financial issues — namely La Liga refusing to finance the new contract both Messi and Barcelona agreed to earlier this summer — but there’s been speculation it’s a ploy to pressure the league into financing the contract as it tries to sell a large stake of commercial rights to a private equity firm in a $3.75 billion deal, as reported by Rob Harris of the Associated Press.
Tearful Lionel Messi bids goodbye to Barcelona; sources say PSG deal agreed
A tearful Lionel Messi has said his next move is not confirmed at an emotional farewell news conference Sunday, but ESPN sources said a deal with Paris Saint-Germain has already been agreed.
Messi, who has been a free agent since his contract expired at Camp Nou on June 30, had maintained his silence since Barca announced on Thursday that he will not sign new terms because of financial problems.
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The Argentina forward said he had received several calls from clubs since the news broke, confirming PSG’s interest, and multiple sources have told ESPN that he has already agreed to sign for the Ligue 1 side.
Sources added that Messi is expected to travel to Paris soon before completing a medical in the coming days and signing a two-year deal with the option for a third season. He could be presented at an event at the Eiffel Tower in the coming days.
“[PSG] is one possibility,” Messi said. “There’s nothing closed at the moment, but we’re talking about a lot of things. After Barca’s statement, a lot of clubs showed an interest. There’s nothing final but, of course, there are talks.”
Asked about the prospect of joining a rival, he added: “There is no doubt that I will go to a team that will compete with Barca. I didn’t want to leave, but I have to. And I want to keep winning. That’s my mentality. I want to win.”
Messi said a photograph of him with several PSG players in the Spanish island resort of Ibiza last week, including Neymar and Angel Di Maria, was just a coincidence, although he said they did joke about him moving to Paris.
Instead, in an event at the auditorium to the side of Camp Nou attended by the board, the first-team squad and his family, Messi insisted he had done everything possible to stay at Barca.
“I am really sad because I didn’t want to leave because this is the club I love,” he said. “I didn’t expect this. I have never lied; I have always been honest and upfront. Last year I wanted to leave; this year I didn’t. That’s why I am so sad.
“As the president [Joan Laporta] has explained, the club has debt [problems]. It’s not possible. Why keep drawing it out if it’s nearly impossible? The talks stopped as Barca did not want to go on, they knew LaLiga would not let it happen, it was impossible.
“I did everything I could to stay and it wasn’t possible. I offered to reduce my salary by 50% and Barca didn’t ask for anything else. They didn’t ask for another 30%; that’s a lie.”
Messi, 34, had agreed to a new five-year contract with Barca, but that would have meant the club’s wage bill stood at 110% of their revenue. Their spending cap with LaLiga has dropped from over €600 million in 2019-20 to an expected €200m for the coming season, making it impossible to register Messi’s new deal, even with a big pay cut. His previous terms included a base salary of around €70m gross without bonuses.
He wrote a farewell message on social media which read: “I would have liked to leave in another way, although I suppose that a farewell can never be something nice. I would have loved to continue here, I did everything with that objective and in the end it did not happen.
“I only have words of thanks for all those who have accompanied me in so many years at the club. And for our fans, that they gave me all their love and that I tried to give it back to them, also giving everything for this shirt. I’m leaving but it’s not goodbye, just see you later. Visca el Barça!”
Messi also lamented that he had been unable to say goodbye on the pitch with the fans chanting his name, bemoaning that his last 18 months at the club have been played in empty stadiums due to the pandemic.
“Without a doubt, this is the most difficult time of my career,” Messi added at the news conference. “I have had a lot of tough moments, but the other day, [learning I was] not going back to training, not going to be on the pitch again, that this is the end with this club, yes, it’s one of the most difficult moments for me.
“This year is different from last year [when I wanted to leave]. My family and I were convinced we were going to stay, that’s what we wanted more than anything. We are at home here. Now I have to say goodbye to all of this. I have been here since I was 13. After 21 years, I am leaving with my wife, with my three little Catalan-Argentine kids. I can’t say that we won’t come back in some way because this is our home and I promised my children we would.”
LaLiga also posted a tribute on social media and said: “We made history together. It’s been a matter of pride to see you become a legend. Thanks, Leo Messi.”
With 672 goals in 778 games for Barca, Messi leaves as both the club’s record appearance maker and top goal scorer. However, he says no one person comes before the club and assured supporters there is a squad built for success even without him.
“Barca are one of the best teams in the world, they have an amazing side,” he said. “More players will come, not just now but in the future. Players come and go. As Laporta said, no one person comes before the club. At first, it will be weird, but people will get used to it.”
Messi’s wife, Antonela Roccuzzo, also posted, writing: “How difficult it is to summarise in a few lines all these past years! “So many emotions that left their mark forever in our lives ❤️ “But as the saying goes, what does not kill us, strengthens us! And with the family as a base, we will go out to the pitch again, stronger than ever … ❤️Let’s go wherever we go together, but always forward !!!!! ❤️❤️ “I love you my love!!! ❤️ @leomessi.”
On Messi’s Barcelona departure and what’s wrong with our game
There can be few tears so painfully symbolic of a fiasco with a capital ‘F’ than those shed by Lionel Messi in his farewell to Barcelona. It’s a fiasco for Spanish football, for the club and its directors, for the fans and for the player himself. If a superstar like Messi and a team like Barça, one that describes itself as ‘more than a club’, agree to continue their 21-year love affair but, in the space of just a few hours, everything falls apart to the apparent benefit of a team owned by a sovereign Arab state, something is very, very wrong with our game.
A euro-a-year deal would have been fairy-tale stuff, but…
Abrasha Rotenberg, a highly respected, 95-year-old Argentine writer of Ukrainian origin, the father of the actor Cecilia Roth and the musician Ariel Rot, wondered in AS this week what he would have done if he were Messi and Barça couldn’t afford to keep him because of their dire financial state. He proposed a solution that would certainly have made for a fairy-tale conclusion to Messi’s Camp Nou career: “If I were him, I would sign an indefinite contract at Barça and would set my salary at one euro a year.” In the multi-millionaire world of football today, it would be fanciful, naive, even childish to expect that to happen, but for the football-mad kid in every fan, it’s hard to imagine a better ending to the story that has been Messi and Barcelona. If he had done something like that, Messi would have been beatified by the Barça congregation and, for the rest of the world, would have become a legend beyond compare. This isn’t a fairy tale with a happy ending, though. This is a story about money.
The result is that the new football season is upon us, fans are set to return to stadiums, and yet everything is enveloped in a certain funereal air. In previous years, it’s been all about the excitement of signings, about summer tournaments and tours showcasing LaLiga’s talents. This year, we’re enduring the shock of Messi and Sergio Ramos’ departures; hugely tense conflicts over the Super League and LaLiga’s deal with a private equity firm; and unfortunate episodes that are just depressing for the fans, such as the Florentino Pérez tapes. Had it not been for Spain’s good performance at the European Championship and the Olympics, you could be forgiven for thinking there was a curse on Spanish football. What is going on?
Colin Sheridan on Lionel Messi’s Barcelona exit: All the best love affairs end in tears
One couldn’t help thinking of Lionel Messi on Sunday morning, as images of the jubilant scenes from Portland Row in Dublin’s inner city circulated following Kellie Harrington’s gold medal victory in Tokyo.
Harrington, who works on the cleaning staff at St Vincent’s psychiatric hospital in the city, will no doubt receive a hero’s welcome when she flies home next week. Tears of joy will be shed. Murals painted. Girls will watch from their daddy’s shoulders and dream of it being them someday.
Meanwhile, in Barcelona, a soap opera involving the world’s greatest footballer, hundreds of millions of dollars, and a pesky set of financial fair play rules was playing out in front of TV cameras, most of them pointed at an empty podium inside an empty stadium.
Some fans loitered about the Camp Nou, offering their tuppence worth on how they felt about potentially losing a player who had defined a club already steeped in a glorious tradition. Crucially, there were no riots on the streets and no weeping children. Only fatigue and borderline indifference. From everybody.
That was until Messi took to the stage. Dressed in midnight blue, his wife and three children in the front row, the world’s greatest footballer broke down in tears before he even spoke.
There is something jarring about watching a man cry as the eyes of the world are on him — more jarring still to watch him being offered a single tissue from his supportive wife. The tissue seemed as useless as an Oviedo defender trying to stop him scoring. He exhausted every corner of the damned thing. For minutes, he just wept like a kid after losing his favourite Pokémon card.
With no prepared words, he gathered himself and spoke to the media, explaining in a hoarse voice that, despite both the club and himself wanting the same thing, there was no solution. Messi was leaving Barcelona. Despite his willingness to accept a spectacular pay cut, the club could not afford to keep him.
Oddly, there seemed to be no anger, or bitterness, just palpable sadness.
Nor were there any bonfires lit in the 6th Arrondissement, down by Saint-Germain-des-Prés. If Paris is likely one of Messi’s destinations if he actually leaves Barca, I’m guessing Messi’s press conference made little difference to Parisians as they sipped their morning café au laits on the banks of the Seine, reading their copies of Le Journal du Dimanche. In the city of lights, Messi would only be another work of art on display.
Brought there by Qatari money, he would ply his trade like he always has, except this time it would be as if he were hanging in a museum. Ligue 1 is hardly the MLS, but PSG are a behemoth club with a near-monopoly in a league that — with the exception of PSG — is increasingly being stripped of its best players by clubs from wealthier European leagues. We may never find out if he could have done it on a wet Tuesday night in Stoke, but we can be fairly certain he can do it on a Monday night at Metz.
Maybe we won’t care or will not remember next March, as he wins a classic Champions League tie all by himself. Maybe the colour of the jersey he wears and the people who pay his wages don’t matter when it comes to him practising his alchemy.
Prisoners to the moment, it may seem that football finally lost its soul as this love affair dramatically came apart at the seams. Of course, the reality is that its soul was squandered long before Messi took the tissue from his missus.
For all the protestations about the ‘unbelievable turn of events’ at the 11th hour which has forced Messi’s hand, the writing was on the wall for both the player and club for some time.
Barcelona has been on a kamikaze course for years. Messi, who has been there since he was a child, has undoubtedly been aware of where all of this had been headed. Maybe, just maybe, both parties felt La Liga and its ‘financial fair play’ police may turn a blind eye or make an exception because the league would understand the player and club were too big to fail. This gamble, though morally dubious, would hardly have been the most outlandish one, given the selective application of rules and laws across big money sport.
As of noon on Sunday, the gamble hadn’t worked. Whatever your view of Messi’s over-valuation of his own, otherworldly talents, it is ludicrous to say the blame lies with him. Football has been awash with more money than it knows what to do with for decades; why should he, its greatest exponent, play for nothing as some have suggested? Imagine Michaelangelo continuing to paint and sculpt for nothing all because the Medici’s mismanaged their coffers?
Breaking up is never easy. There will be little romance in the next chapter, that is certain. There will be no going south to Sevilla, say, to build something. There will be no standing ovation as he leaves the Nou Camp field in rival colours, after breaking Barca hearts with a hat-trick straight from his highlight reel. There will be no late-career conversion into a playmaking left back for Betis. No player-manager role at struggling Alaves.
Messi and Barcelona was the last great love story. The club may have had the financial morals of an alley cat in the last few years but, in an increasingly murky market, it gave the hopeless romantics something to believe in. There will likely never be a club-for-life player again. Jack Grealish did well to get to 25. Messi and Barca were once a lover’s young dream, a couple of fools looking to grow old together, whatever the cost.