Lionel Messi broke down in tears as he bid goodbye to his beloved FC Barcelona during a press conference at Camp Nou.
The 34-year-old struggled to control his emotions even before he started speaking at the farewell ceremony, which was attended by several of his current and former teammates.
Greatest Applause— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 8, 2021
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner reiterated that he wanted to continue with his boyhood club and was planning his future in Barcelona.
"I don't know what to say here. These recent days I've been thinking, giving lots of thought to what I could say, and the truth is that I can't think of anything. This is really difficult for me after so many years being here my entire life,” he said in the press conference.
This is the word of Leo #Messi: pic.twitter.com/k0btQ7k1py— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 8, 2021
Messi stated that even though he wanted to leave Barcelona last year, he and his family wanted to extend their stay in the city this time around.
"I'm not ready for this and honestly last year with all the nonsense with the burofax and everything, I knew what I wanted to say. But this year, this year is not the same. This year my family and I were convinced that we were going to stay here, that we were going to stay at our home -- that's what we wanted more than anything.
"We always made this our home, we were at home, and we thought we would be staying here in Barcelona. The time we've had here in the city has been amazing. But wow, today I have to say goodbye to all of this.”
Having relocated to Spain at the age of 13, Messi spent his entire professional career with the Catalan giant.
“I'm been here so many years, my entire life, since I was 13. After 21 years I'm leaving with my wife, with my three little Catalan-Argentine kids and I can't tell you everything we've lived in this city and I can't say that in a few years we won't come back, because this is our home and I promised my children that.”
The FC Barcelona talisman further confirmed that he had agreed on a five-year contract with the club, accepting a 50 per cent pay cut which failed due to the La Liga financial fair-play regulations.
“My contract was never the issue … what I know is that I did everything I could. The club say it could not happen because of La Liga. I can guarantee you that I did everything I could to stay.”
Why did Lionel Messi leave Barcelona?
In order to retain their best player in history, FC Barcelona needed to reduce their wage bill as they needed to stay within La Liga's Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.
According to the La Liga FFP rules introduced in 2013, a floating salary cap was put into place for every team which limits player salaries and transfer costs to 70 per cent of club revenues.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barcelona’s spending limit has been reduced from over €600m to €347m for the 2021-22 season.
Under new president Joan Laporta, Barcelona were forced to reduce their wage bill by close to €170m just to sign Messi.
Thank you, Leo. pic.twitter.com/cdS9xWe8Me— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 5, 2021
Ahead of the new season, Barcelona wanted to sell Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Umtiti, Philippe Coutinho, Miralem Pjanić and Martin Braithwaite in the summer to comply with La Liga regulations and retain Messi. However, limited transfer activity across Europe meant that they could not retain their talisman.
Why Messi will be regarded as the greatest Barcelona player ever?
In his legendary career at FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi has scored 672 goals and assisted 305 times in 778 appearances. The 34-year-old is not just the all-time leading goalscorer in the club’s history but also the top-scorer in La Liga history with 474 goals and 217 assists in 520 games.
Messi has also won a club-record 35 titles with the Catalan club which includes 10 La Liga titles, seven Spanish Cups, eight Copa del Reys, four Champions League titles, three FIFA Club World Cups and three European Super Cups.
Unrepeatable 🐐 pic.twitter.com/xpWRDlHyCq— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 8, 2021
Furthermore, Leo Messi is a six-time Ballon d’Or winner, six-time Golden Shoe winner, and finished as the top-scorer in La Liga for seven seasons besides also topping the goal-scoring charts in the UEFA Champions League for six seasons.
Meanwhile, Messi has reportedly agreed to join the French club Paris Saint-Germain on a two-year contract with an option to extend for one more year.
Featured photo: Twitter/FCBarcelona