August 9 – Lionel Messi is reported to be on the verge of joining Paris St. Germain after his 21-year association with his beloved Barcelona finally came to an end at the weekend.
Messi wept as he bade farewell to his boyhood club at an emotional news conference on Sunday following Barca’s announcement last week that it could no longer afford him.
The Argentine superstar, who won 35 trophies at Barca, was reported to have travelled to Paris to undergo a medical and finalise a deal with the Qatari-owned club, perhaps the only one in the world who could afford his wages.
“I don’t know if I am going to be able to speak,” were Messi’s first words in saying goodbye, tears running down his cheeks. “This is without doubt the most difficult moment of my career.”
While the 34-year-old did not confirm he would definitely join PSG, who crave winning the elusive Champions League, he said his plans were to carry on playing as long as possible.
“As long as I go on being competitive and as long as my body responds (I’ll carry on playing) .I tried to behave with humility and respect and I hope that is what remains of me when I leave the club. I have grown up in the club and I became the man I am here… I feel very sad that I have to leave this club, this club that I love. I wasn’t expecting it.”
Hundreds of fans, many wearing his No. 10 jersey, massed outside Barca’s Camp Nou stadium to bid farewell to their hero, and six-time Ballon d’Or winner, after two decades.
It had previously been widely reported that Messi was set to stay at Camp Nou after agreeing a five-year deal involving a 50% pay-cut. But Barca, whose debts total over €1 billion, were unable to make the deal work within the framework of La Liga’s financial fair play regulations – prompting their surprise u-turn.
“I can guarantee you that I did everything I could to stay. Last year I didn’t want to and I said that, but this year it was different,” said Messi who received a lengthy standing ovation from the media, current and former team mates and coaches.
“We all thought we would reach a solution without any problems, but in the end it wasn’t possible. As the president said, the club is more important than anyone.”
Marca reported on Sunday that Barca fans had hired a French lawyer to try and block Messi’s move to PSG though that seems unlikely to succeed.
Meanwhile, club official Jaume Llopis resigned because of Messi’s departure, saying in a letter published by Spanish media that he was disappointed with club president Joan Laporta, who would “go down in history as the president who fired Messi.”
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