Lionel Messi has made a dramatic U-turn and will now stay at Barcelona for the 2020-21 season.
The Barcelona captain stunned the world in August when he announced he wanted to leave the LaLiga giants this summer after a trophyless season at the Camp Nou.
In an interview with Goal, Messi admitted that he has been discussing his Barcelona exit over the past year and has criticised many aspects of the club.
With the Argentine set to stay, Sportsmail goes through what Messi has revealed to the public word-for-word…
Messi on why he wanted to leave Barcelona:
‘I told the club, including the president (Josep Maria Bartomeu), that I wanted to go. I’ve been telling him that all year. I believed it was time to step aside.
‘I believed that the club needed more young players, new players and I thought my time in Barcelona was over. I felt very sorry because I always said that I wanted to finish my career here.
‘It was a very difficult year, I suffered a lot in training, in games and in the dressing room. Everything became very difficult for me and there came a time when I considered looking for new ambitions.
‘It did not come because of the Champions League result against Bayern, no – I had been thinking about the decision for a long time.
‘I told the president and, well, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not keep his word.’
Messi on his family and their role in the saga:
‘When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama. The whole family began crying, my children did not want to leave Barcelona, nor did they want to change schools.
‘But I looked further afield and I want to compete at the highest level, win titles, compete in the Champions League. You can win or lose in it, because it is very difficult, but you have to compete.
‘At least compete for it and let us not fall apart in Rome, Liverpool, Lisbon. All that led me to think about that decision that I wanted to carry out.
‘Mateo is still little and he doesn’t realise what it means to go somewhere else and make your life a few years elsewhere.
‘Thiago, he is older. He heard something on TV and found out something and asked.
‘I didn’t want him to know anything about being forced to leave, to have to live in a new school, or make new friends.
‘He cried to me and said ‘let’s not go’. I repeat that it was hard, really.
‘It was understandable. It happened to me. It is very difficult to make a decision.
‘I love Barcelona and I’m not going to find a better place than here anywhere. Still, I have the right to decide. I was going to look for new goals and new challenges. And tomorrow I could go back, because here in Barcelona I have everything.
‘My son, my family, they grew up here and are from here. There was nothing wrong with wanting to leave. I needed it, the club needed it and it was good for everyone.
‘My wife, with all the pain of her soul, supported and accompanied me.’
Messi on the contract dispute and the release clause:
‘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.
‘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.
‘And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club. Now I am going to continue in the club because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the £624m clause, and that this is impossible.
‘There was another way and it was to go to trial. I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, which gave me everything since I arrived.
‘It is the club of my life, I have made my life here. Barca gave me everything and I gave it everything. I know that it never crossed my mind to take Barca to court.’
Messi on what happens now:
‘Actually, now I don’t know what will happen.
‘There is a new coach and new ideas. That’s good, but then we have to see how the team responds and whether or not it will give us to compete at the top level.
‘What I can say is that I’m staying and I’m going to give my best for Barcelona.
‘I will continue at Barca and my attitude will not change no matter how much I have wanted to go. I will do my best.
‘I always want to win, I’m competitive and I don’t like to lose anything. I always want the best for the club, for the dressing room and for myself.
‘I always put the club before anything else. I had the possibility of leaving Barca many times. Every year I could have left and earned more money than at Barcelona. I always said that this was my home and it was what I felt and feel.’
‘To decide there was somewhere better than here was difficult. I felt that I needed a change and new goals, new things’.
Messi on the media’s reporting of the saga:
‘It has hurt me a lot that things are published against me and above all, that false things are published. Or that they came to think that I could go to trial against Barca in order to benefit myself.
‘I would never do such a thing. I repeat, I wanted to go and it was entirely my right, because the contract said that I could be released. And it is not, ‘I’m leaving and that’s it’. I was leaving and it cost me a lot.
‘I wanted to go because I thought about living my last years of football happily. Lately I have not found happiness within the club.
‘But I did feel hurt by things that I heard from people, from journalists, from people questioning my commitment to Barcelona and saying things that I think I didn’t deserve. It also helped me to see the truth in people.
‘This world of football is very difficult and there are many fake people. This happening has helped me to recognise many fake people. It hurt me when my love for this club was questioned.
No matter how much I go or stay, my love for Barca will never change.’