The hardest thing to say is goodbye, but that’s what Lionel Messi has done today. The Argentine gave a press conference at Camp Nou to bid farewell to Barcelona, the club he joined as a teenager and the only one he’s represented throughout his amazing career.
Every football fan on earth was intrigued to hear what the 34-year-old had to say; a huge crowd gathered outside the stadium to wait for him. Messi was clearly emotional, struggling through the press conference with tears in his eyes. His wife, Antonella, had to hand him a tissue before he began, with the Argentine struggling to get his words out at first. He received a touching standing ovation from all in attendance.
Barcelona confirmed Messi’s departure on Thursday evening, causing an immense shock amidst the football world. His contract had expired at the end of June, but most believed that a renewal was inevitable. Despite his age, he’s not slowing down; Messi was player of the tournament at the Copa America as Argentina won their first title since 1993, scoring four goals and contributing five assists. Argentina beat Brazil in the final in Rio de Janeiro.
But La Liga’s strict financial controls and Barcelona’s inability to shift deadwood has meant that the Blaugrana couldn’t retain the services of what many consider to be the greatest footballer of all time. He’s expected to sign for Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days, where he’ll reunite with former Barcelona teammate Neymar, while Barcelona enter a new era.
😢 La emoción a flor de piel pic.twitter.com/GOVpOeBpoB
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona_es) August 8, 2021
“Last year when I sent the burofax and all that, I knew what I had to do, I was convinced,” Messi said in the press conference. “But this year, no. I was convinced that myself and my family were going to stay here, in our home. That’s what we wanted most. But today I have to say goodbye.
“I never imagined this goodbye. I wanted it to be with fans in the stadium, to hear one more ovation from them, one more show of love. Leaving after spending 18 months without fans singing my name; I couldn’t have imagined it. But it’s happened like this.
“I hope I can return in some moment to be part of this club, in whatever role, and be able to bring something to keep this club as being the best in the world. After 21 years I’m leaving with my wife and my children, three Catalan-Argentines. I couldn’t be more proud of all I’ve done and lived in this city. I have no doubt that after some years away we’ll return; this is our home. I’ve promised that to my kids, too.”
Many Barcelona fans are still confounded by how we came to this point, and how the negotiations fell through having appeared so promising. Messi didn’t want to get into that too deeply. “I can’t speak for the club,” he said.
“[Joan] Laporta said they can’t due to La Liga. I can only say I did everything possible to stay here. I wanted to stay; last year I didn’t, and I said that, this year I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I thought it was all sorted, all agreed. Then in the last minute it wasn’t possible to an issue with La Liga. That’s what happened.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 8, 2021
“I still don’t fully realise that I’m leaving this club, this place, changing my life completely. Now I have to start from zero; that’s a big change, and it’s tough on my family too to have to leave this city. But we’re going to be fine. It’s a difficult change but one that must be taken on. We have to start again.
“This is the most difficult moment of my career, no doubt. I’ve had many difficult, hard moments, many defeats, but then you could get back to training and get revenge. Now I can’t return, my time at the club is over. I feel very sad to have to leave this club, the club I love, in a moment I didn’t expect. I never lie, I’ve always been up front and told the truth. Last year I wanted to leave, this year I didn’t. That’s why I’m sad.”
The Argentine kept his powder dry when asked about his future. “[PSG] are a possibility, but sincerely as of today there’s nothing agreed with anyone. When the statement was released I had many calls, various clubs were interested. But there’s nothing closed yet, although we’re talking.”