Lionel Messi, who informed Barcelona last week of his intention to leave the club after nearly two decades, announced Friday that he is, in fact, staying.
"I wasn't happy and I wanted to leave," Messi told Goal, according to The Guardian's Fabrizio Romano. "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 (president Josep Maria) Bartomeu is a disaster."
Messi will now see out the remainder of his contract, which expires in June 2021.
Unless he signs an extension, he'll be allowed to leave next summer on a free transfer.
Manchester City were reportedly considered the favorites to sign Messi if he managed to break away from Barcelona.
Messi's father, Jorge Messi, arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday to demand his son's release, according to reports, citing a now-infamous clause that allows the 33-year-old to unilaterally terminate his contract at the end of each season. Barcelona, however, insisted the clause expired in June.
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu reportedly made it clear during a two-hour meeting with Jorge that any team interested in signing the six-time Ballon d'Or winner would have to pay his â¬700-million release clause. La Liga threw its support behind the club, confirming the release clause is valid.
Messi Sr. said upon his arrival that it would be "difficult" for his son to stay at Barcelona, and the events leading up to this point suggested as much. Lionel Messi sent an official document Aug. 25 - shortly after the calamitous 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals - to tell the club he was terminating his contract. His camp reportedly argued the termination clause was still valid because the season was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
With a court case looming, Messi boycotted Barcelona's first preseason training session Monday. He also missed the club's first round of coronavirus testing, which is required for all players to participate in training.
All the while, City had remained on alert. Messi was reportedly in contact with the Premier League side and keen on a move. Conversations with City manager and former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola apparently took place days after the loss to Bayern.
Messi was also linked with PSG, Inter Milan, and Juventus.
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