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Barcelona president: I couldn't let Lionel Messi join a rival

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander
FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander
Varun Totadri
ANALYST
Modified 27 Oct 2020, 15:37 IST
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Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says he could not let Lionel Messi leave for a direct rival and he was willing to accept the consequences that came with that.

Lionel Messi has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, where he has won a club-record 34 trophies, including ten La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles, and six Copas del Rey. Messi has won a record six Ballon d'Or awards and a record six European Golden Shoes during his time at Barcelona.

However, The Argentine genius has been linked with a move away from Barcelona in recent years and was reportedly close to sealing his exit this summer. Messi tried to force a move away from the Camp Nou, but his lawyers failed to find a loophole in his €700million release clause, a sum that no club in the world can afford.

Messi eventually decided to stay at Barcelona for the rest of the season. The 33-year-old said he was not willing to take the club to court over the wording of a clause in his contract, which he felt would mean he could leave for free.

Barcelona president Bartomeu defends his handling of Lionel Messi saga

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander
FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander

In an interview with Goal, Messi announced his decision to stay and accused Bartomeu of lying to him and said the Barcelona board had been making things up as they go along for years.

"I was accused of wanting to force a transfer for financial reasons 'to balance the books'. That's not true. I defended the interests of the club, accepting the consequences that refusing Messi's decision to go to one of our rivals would entail," said Bartomeu in a news conference on Monday.
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Lionel Messi can leave Barcelona for free when his contract expires in the summer of 2021. Messi never revealed what his next destination would be, but sources have told ESPN that the player was in talks with Manchester City.

Bartomeu said he understood Messi's frustration after the club's humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but stressed on how important it was for him to stay and lead the team under new coach Ronald Koeman.

"Messi had a contract in vigour. The option to rescind the deal unilaterally had expired. The most important thing was to start a new sporting cycle with Messi in the team. I understand he may be angry about not leaving. I tried to explain to him and his family that we could not let him go. He's the key to Koeman's project," said Bartomeu.

Lionel Messi was further angered by the club and the board about the way they treated his close friend and former Barcelona striker Luis Suarez. Suarez was unceremoniously kicked out of the club and sold to arch-rivals Atletico Madrid this summer.

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Josep Maria Bartomeu's Barcelona job has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, with the president reportedly likely to face a vote of no confidence. Monday was the deadline to fix a date for the vote among club members, but complications caused by further coronavirus restrictions in Catalonia have held things up.

Barcelona are laying in wait to see if the local government will give them the green light to postpone the vote, which was originally scheduled for November 1st and 2nd to November 15th and 16th.

Published 27 Oct 2020, 15:37 IST
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