‘Tito convinced Messi to stay at Barca’

Lionel Messi had decided to leave Barcelona until he spoke with Tito Vilanova, less than a week before the former Barca Coach passed away.

Mundo Deportivo reports that Messi and Jose Pinto went to see Vilanova on April 19, although Vilanova initially declined their request to visit as he didn’t want the players to see how unwell he was.

The meeting was three days after Barca lost the Copa del Rey final to Real Madrid and at a time when Messi was criticised by the Camp Nou crowd.

Reporter Bernat Soler claimed on TV3 that Vilanova agreed to speak with Messi after talking to Josep Maria Bartomeu, the Barca President, about the Argentine’s mood.

It’s claimed that the first thing Messi told Vilanova was that he had made up his mind to quit Barca. Messi also insisted it wasn’t about money.

During the two-hour talk Vilanova urged Messi to reconsider and advised he wouldn’t find a better club than La Blaugrana. A day later, Messi scored the winner in a 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao.

Bartomeu visited Vilanova in hospital on April 24, a day before Vilanova died, and thanked him for his role in changing Messi’s mind.

The President is said to have referred to the discussion in his open letter upon the death of Vilanova, where he wrote that he had seen up close how Vilanova remained committed to the success of the club.

“I have experienced first-hand how, until the last moment, he has been helping the club with his advice,” Bartomeu wrote.

Messi duly agreed a new contract with Barca on May 19.

Tags Lionel Messi Tito Vilanova