Barcelona, Spain, Aug 8 (EFE).- A tearful Lionel Messi confirmed on Sunday that he will leave FC Barcelona after 21 years at the club.
At a press conference attended by his wife, three children and his teammates, many of whom were also in tears, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner bade farewell to the club that he has played for since the age of 13.
“This is very difficult for me. After so many years, being here my entire life, I’m not ready for this,” Messi said.
Last year, the Barcelona forward had announced that he wanted to leave the club, but later withdrew the request because he knew that a team matching his transfer clause of 700 million euro would be impossible.
A change in the leadership of the club with the reinstatement of Joan Laporta appeared to signal a new era at Barcelona, with the new president making keeping the Argentine superstar his number one priority this summer.
In July, they announced that they had agreed a contract with Messi that would have halved his wages in order to help the debt-saddled club meet LaLiga’s financial regulations, but Barcelona have been unable to offload other first team players to free up enough salary space to accommodate their now former star.
“Last year, I was convinced I knew what I wanted to leave,” Messi said.
“This year is not the same. This year, my family and I were convinced that we were going to stay here, at home. It’s what we wanted more than anything. We’d always made this our own, we were at home. We thought we’d be staying here in Barcelona. The time we’ve had here has been amazing.
“But today I have to say goodbye to all of this.”
Since he made his first-team in 2004 debut at the age of 17, Messi has won every major club honor available.