Lionel Messi: Footballer says he couldn’t put fans through a legal battle with Barcelona

For someone who has spent an entire career keeping his counsel, Lionel Messi’s interview revealing he will stay at Barcelona was as surprising as it was explosive.

The world has been following all the twists and turns since Messi sent a bombshell letter indicating his intention to leave Barcelona last week.

We discovered what Jorge Messi, his father and agent, eats at his favourite restaurant.

We learned the intricacies of the contract keeping him in Catalonia, yet hadn’t heard a word from Messi himself.

But in breaking his silence, the world’s greatest – who so often allows his football to speak for him – has eviscerated the current leadership at the club where he has spent the past two decades, laying bare the bitterness of a relationship which has been failing for some time.

“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 so as not to get into a legal dispute. The management of the club led by Bartomeu is a disaster.”

Now Barcelona are left with a player approaching 34, clearly less than fully committed to the club, who has revealed he’s wanted to leave for some time.

This was not something Messi decided on a whim; he says he made the decision despite his family’s initial wish to stay in the city that has become home.

He also said he felt the club had agreed he would leave on a free transfer and later reneged on that promise.

He has planted the idea of a betrayal, which is a public relations disaster for Barcelona, a club to which Messi has devoted an entire career, winning a record six Ballon d’Or awards.

They fought so hard to keep him but Barcelona are now left with a player – the most powerful one there is – who is clearly motivated to expose the perceived shortcomings of Josep Bartomeu, the club’s president, already unpopular with the fan base.

It does beg the question about whether they may live to regret preventing their greatest asset from leaving on his own terms.

Meanwhile there is a coach across the water, Pep Guardiola, with whom the Argentinian enjoyed some of his best days, and who is keen to work with him again.

But Messi says the only way to do that would be to engage in a legal battle with Barcelona.

He says he wouldn’t want to do that to the club and the supporters, further endearing himself to the fans who already love him.

There is only one popular winner in this war of words and wills.

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