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Lionel Messi to stay at Barcelona for 2020/21 season
4 September 2020, 17:33 | Updated: 4 September 2020, 18:37
Lionel Messi has confirmed he will be staying at Barcelona for the 2020/21 season despite wanting to leave the club this summer.
The superstar forward, considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time, told Goal in an exclusive interview that he would stay at Barcelona after spending his entire career at the Spanish side.
It comes following weeks of wrangling over the Argentine's future, during which he seemed destined to link up with his former boss Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
However, following a series of meetings with the Catalan side, Messi decided he did not want to take his boyhood club - who he joined at the age of just 13 - to court.
"I wasn't happy and I wanted to leave. 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," Messi told Goal.
He added: "I'll continue at Barcelona and my attitude won't change, no matter how much I have wanted to go.
“I told the club, the president, that I wanted to go. I've been telling him all year.
"I thought my time in Barcelona was over, sadly - I always wanted to finish my career here."
On 25 August, Messi told the club that he wanted to part ways with them and intended to take advantage of a clause in his contract which he and his representatives believed allowed him to leave on a free transfer.
However, Barcelona insisted the time had passed for the clause to be activated, due to the coronavirus pandemic delaying the conclusion of the 2019/20 La Liga season, and that Messi would need to pay the €700 million release clause in order for him to join another club on a free transfer.
The record-breaking goalscorer said it would be "impossible" for him to pay the sum and that the only other way to settle the dispute would be through the courts.
He said he would "never" enter a legal battle with Barca because it is the club he "loves" and that "gave (him) everything since (he) arrived".
"I told the president (I wanted to leave) and well, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end, he did not keep his word," he said.
Asked about some people's reaction to his possible departure, the 33-year-old added: "It hurt me when my love for this club was questioned. No matter how much I go or stay, my love for Barca will never change."
In a further criticism of club president Josep Maria Bartomeu's regime, Messi said: "The truth is that there has been no project for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by.
"I repeat, I wanted to go and it was entirely my right because the contract said that I could be released. And it's not 'I'm leaving and that's it'. I was leaving and it cost me a lot.
"I will continue at Barca and my attitude will not change no matter how much I have wanted to go. I will do my best.
"I always want to win, I'm competitive and I don't like to lose anything. I always want the best for the club, for the dressing room and for myself.
"There is a new coach (Ronald Koeman) and a new idea. That's good, but then we have to see how the team responds and whether or not it will give us to compete. What I can say is that I'm staying and I'm going to give my best."
The tone of Messi's statement seems to suggest he would still like to leave the club, but would now do so when his contract ends next summer.
Earlier on Friday, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's father and agent Jorge wrote to La Liga to explain why he felt his son had a legitimate case to leave on a free transfer.
In a statement issued by the Spanish league last Sunday, it confirmed it supported Barcelona's position.
However, Messi's father stressed there was no specific date in the contract when his son needed to inform the club of his desire to leave, simply that it should be done at the end of the 2019-20 season.
Barca's season ended in humiliation after they were knocked out of the Champions League by eventual winners Bayern Munich on 14 August, suffering an 8-2 humiliation.