Lionel Messi ended speculation about his future at Barcelona by announcing on Friday that he would reluctantly stay for another season rather than tackle his career-long club in court.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner shook up the football world at the end of August when he dropped a major bombshell on Barca by demanding to leave and activating a clause in his contract that he believed would permit him to exit the Catalan club for free.
In a statement, Messi said: “I would never take the club I have played my entire life for to court, and that is why I am staying in Barcelona. It was a tough decision. I always said I wanted to end my career here and I do.”
“I wasn’t happy and I wanted to leave. I have not been allowed this in any way and I will STAY at the club so as not to get into a legal dispute.”
“The management of the club led by (president Josep Maria) Bartomeu is a disaster.
“I told the club, the president in particular, that I wanted to leave. They knew this since the start of the past season. I told them during all (of the) last 12 months. But I will stay here because I don’t want to start a legal war.”
By remaining at the Catalan club for the fourth and final year of his contract the six-time world player of the year is in line for a £63 million loyalty bonus and will be able to leave without a transfer fee.
“I will continue at Barca and my attitude will not change no matter how much I have wanted to go,” he said. “I wanted to go because I thought about living my last years of football happily. Lately I have not found happiness within the club.”
Earlier on Friday, Messi’s father and representative Jorge had insisted in a letter to La Liga that a €700-million release clause in the player’s contract was not valid and his son could leave for free.
However, despite the standoff between the Messi camp and Barcelona and La Liga, the player has ended the impasse and will see out his contract with the club with whom he has won more than 30 major trophies and scored over 600 goals.
Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League last month with an 8-2 demolition by eventual winners Bayern Munich, and hired Ronald Koeman to replace sacked coach Quique Setien.
Messi dropped the bombshell last week that he wanted to leave the club and that he could do so on a free transfer.