Messi makes U-turn, says he’ll stay at Barcelona

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Lionel Messi will stay at Barcelona after a dramatic U-turn saw him end his bid to leave the club this summer.

The decision, reported by Goal.com, comes after days of intense speculation sparked by Messi’s attempt to unilaterally rescind his contract on Aug. 25. Messi and his legal team argued on Friday that he had exercised a clause which enabled him to leave for free at the end of each season.

In his statement, Messi said: “I would never in my life go against the club’s judgment 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.”

Barcelona, however, said that clause had expired in June and that Messi’s deal — which runs until 2021 — was still valid. They claimed that if Messi wanted to leave, he or his next club would have to pay his €700 million release clause or face legal action.

La Liga backed up Barca’s position, saying they would not process Messi’s transfer unless his buyout clause was paid. That stance was criticised by Messi’s father Jorge in a letter sent to La Liga on Friday, insisting that the €700 million fee was no longer applicable.

Jorge — who is also his son’s agent — had arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday for face-to-face talks with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Sources told ESPN that meeting was positive and constructive, and Barca were not ruling out Messi staying for another season.

The club believed the player’s motivation in all this was a desire for new challenges, which he could pursue, if he wished to, from 2021.

Manchester City were favourites to sign the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, with sources telling ESPN the club were working on a deal that would see Messi play for them before joining New York City FC.

Those plans have now been put on hold, though, after Messi changed his mind in the face of a prolonged, acrimonious standoff.

The 33-year-old had been refusing to attend training sessions with new Barca coach Ronald Koeman, in the belief that doing so would undermine his legal case.

Messi will now rejoin his teammates to lead Koeman’s new-look team this season as they look to improve on a trophyless 2019-20 that saw them finish behind Real Madrid in La Liga and be knocked out of the Champions League in a humiliating 8-2 quarterfinal defeat to Bayern Munich.