After Lionel Messi shocked the sports world by declaring his intent to leave his career-long home at Barcelona in late August, the Argentine soccer star will ultimately remain with his team and conclude his efforts to be released from his contract.
The 33-year-old star has spent the past 10 days in legal battles with his longtime team after announcing on Aug. 25 that he would exercise a clause in his contract, which allowed him to leave free at the end of the 2020 season. Messi’s announcement led to days of intense speculation of where he would go with Manchester City becoming the favorites to sign him.
However, Barca pushed back on Messi’s announcement, saying he could not get out of his contract because he missed the 10-day window which immediately followed the original date of the Champions League final back in June. Of course, the La Liga season and the Champions League tournament were both pushed back because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Messi was hoping that would help his cause. It was going to be an uphill legal fight.
And that made the decision for him. If Messi wanted to opt out of his deal, which lasts until 2021, Barcelona said he or his next club would have to pay the €700 million release clause. Their rebuttal led to days of negotiations and legal battles, which ultimately resulted in Messi deciding to stay with his club.
"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," Messi told Goal.com. "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 all the season…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."
Through the legal negotiations, La Liga backed up Barca and agreed that Messi or his next team would have to pay the €700 million clause. Throughout the negotiation period, Messi refused to attend training sessions with the club’s coach Ronald Koeman and believed it would weaken his case.
While it became clear that Messi could not win the battle without paying a steep fee, he had the option to go to trial, but ultimately decided against it.
“I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love,” he told Goal. “I know that it never crossed my mind to take Barca to court."
After turning back on his initial decision, Messi claimed he always wanted to end his career with Barcelona and would not turn on the club in the end, however, in his interview with Goal.com, he explained his frustration with the leadership, which prompted his initial decision to leave.
“I wasn’t happy, and I wanted to leave,” he said. “I have not been allowed this in any way, and I will stay at the club as not to get into a legal dispute. The management of the club led by [Josep Maria] Bartomeu is a disaster.”
Now, with the drama temporarily subsided, Messi will return to Barcelona for next season. However, his deep-seated issues with the team’s leadership seem far from over, and he could ultimately go down a similar path next offseason with his contract expiring in 2021.