Barcelona captain Lionel Messi says former president of the club Josep Maria Bartomeu lied to him repeatedly over the course of several years, but he won’t rule out staying at Camp Nou beyond this season.
Messi is out of contract in June and is free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with other clubs from January 1. However, the 33-year-old says he will not make any decision about his future until June.
In an extensive interview with La Sexta’s Jordi Evole, Messi also lifted the lid on why he tried to quit Barca in August, spoke about a possible reunion with Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar and detailed how his relationship with Bartomeu, who resigned in October, deteriorated.
“I had been telling [Bartomeu] for six months that I wanted to leave and asking for his help and he just said ‘no, no, no’,” says Messi.
“So, I sent the burofax as a last resort to show I was serious, to make it official. I’m eternally grateful to the club for everything but it felt like a cycle had ended and I needed a change.
“I knew this would be a transition year and I want to fight for the Champions League and league titles. The president didn’t want to let me go and then he started to leak things to make me look like the bad guy. Then everything that happened, happened, but I am still calm that I did what was right at that moment,” he said.
Messi said he was appalled at how Bartomeu forced friend and teammate Luis Suarez out, letting him leave for title rivals Atletico Madrid for free, but wouldn’t go into details about the lies the former president had told him.
“He [lied] about many things,” Messi laughed.
“Honestly, so many, but I prefer not to go into private things that happened, but I can assure you it was many things over several years.”
Manchester City and PSG are the two best-placed clubs to sign him in Europe, but Messi wouldn’t be drawn on either, although he did say “it’s always been a dream to play in the United States” before he retires.
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By Ofhani Munyai