Lionel Messi deserved a better sendoff from the club he called home for 21 years.
After 18 months playing in an empty Camp Nou for Barcelona due to the pandemic, Messi addressed his departure from the club at a press conference on Sunday. Though Messi left the next stage of his career open in an emotional farewell, ESPN reported on Sunday Barcelona's all-time record goal scorer, who has played the most games in that storied club's history, is reportedly set to sign a two-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days.
Messi, who has been a free agent since his Barcelona contract expired on June 30, confirmed the club's financial problems prevented the agreed upon five-year deal from being finalized. Barcelona's spending cap is reportedly estimated to drop around 200-million euros from the 600-million euro budget it had in 2019-20. Not even Messi's 50% wage cut from his record 4-year, $674 million contract would have been possible to sign.
"I am really sad because I didn't want to leave because this is the club I love," Messi 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."
Barcelona signed four players, including Messi's Argentina national teammate Sergio Aguero, in the transfer window before La Liga's new spending limits made the situation untenable.
Messi marks PSG's fourth free-agent signing of the summer, as midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool), goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan) and Messi's long-time rival Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) all moved to the French capital for free.
Messi said PSG winger and Argentine teammate Angel Di Maria's Instagram post with Messi plus three other PSG teammates, including Neymar, was purely coincidental - though he said they did joke about him making the move.
After 672 goals in 778 games en route to 35 trophies over his Barcelona career, Messi's departure ends possibly the greatest career with a single club in soccer history.