Lionel Messi Will Stay at Barcelona, But Has Harsh Words for Club President

Messi called out club president Josep Maria Bartomeu by name in an interview with Goal

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi in the UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal.
Manu Fernandez/Pool via Getty Images

One of the most thrilling sports dramas of the summer has played out outside of the confines of arenas, stadiums and assorted “bubbles.” That would be Lionel Messi’s growing dissatisfaction with FC Barcelona, the team he’s called home ever since he began playing in their academy at the age of 13. Messi, now 33, announced in late August that he was looking to leave the team.

When he made that announcement, Messi believed that he would be able to leave Barcelona on a free transfer. The club believed otherwise. At issue was a deadline in Messi’s contract that had passed — but which also reflected a schedule made before the pandemic prompted the wholesale postponement of numerous games.

A new report from Sid Lowe at The Guardian offers what seems to be the final step in this saga: Messi isn’t leaving Barcelona after all. Or so he says — but given the candor with which he talks about the team, it’s hard to imagine how the next year will go.

At the center of the article is an interview Messi gave to the soccer website Goal, in which he candidly spoke about his relationship to Barcelona and criticized the team’s front office.

Messi focused much of his criticism on club president Josep Maria Bartomeu. “I told the president 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,” Messi said.

In the end, Messi spoke of not wanting to take the matter to court, given his longstanding relationship with the club. While he’s said that he will play for one more season with Barcelona, it’s likely to be a remarkably awkward experience for all parties involved. The club’s captain and greatest player in its history will now head to pre-season training having stated that he has no desire to be there due to the mismanagement of the club by Bartomeu, and will almost certainly leave on a free transfer come June 2021.

“[T]he truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by,” Messi said in the Goal interview.

Will we get to see Messi call Camp Nou home for one more season — or is this interview a way to force the issue and allow him to move to another club? This particular drama doesn’t seem to be entirely over.

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