Lionel Messi’s final days at Barcelona, and how he ended up joining PSG On Monday, Lionel Messi sat at his home in Castelldefels, a beach town in the Barcelona suburbs, waiting for his move to Paris Saint-Germain to develop.
It was revealed last Thursday that he could not return to Barcelona — negotiations had been ongoing with the French club since that day, when Barca announced “economic obstacles” prevented them from formalising the five-year contract they had agreed with Messi — and the world’s media were waiting for his next move. International news agencies had video journalists stationed at his house, at the airports in Barcelona and Paris, at the Paris hospital where PSG’s new signings typically undergo their medicals, and at the French club’s headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt.
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On Tuesday, the image finally arrived as Messi, who spent 21 years at Barca after joining at age 13, headed to the airport.
His former teammate and close friend Luis Suarez had left minutes earlier, having spent the past two days at the Messi household. Later that day, Messi, a one-club man no more, was unveiled by PSG, signing an initial two-year deal with the Ligue 1 side. His every move throughout the day had already been tracked by camera crews all over the French capital before the club finally released a drone video taking viewers on a dramatic tour of the club shop and stadium before honing in on Messi, stood on the centre spot at the Parc des Princes after his move was completed.
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Messi wanted to quit Barca 12 months ago. At the time, sources told ESPN that Manchester City were his preferred destination club, although PSG were also in the race. This time, though, he didn’t want to leave. In an interview with journalist Jordi Evole last December, Messi said he would wait until the end of the 2020-21 season before making any decision on his future. By the end of the campaign, it had become increasingly apparent he now wanted to stay.
The return of Joan Laporta as president had been key in his turnaround. Laporta was the president when Messi broke into Barca’s first team. He was the president when Pep Guardiola was appointed as manager, too, and oversaw a period of dominance including Barca’s first treble in 2009, led by Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. The charismatic lawyer had a good relationship with the player and his father, Jorge. Shortly after Laporta was elected in March for a second term, he had lunch with Messi, who has since explained that he left that meeting convinced he would prolong his relationship with Barcelona.
However, with each passing week, the true extent of Barca’s financial problems came into stark focus. The club’s gross debt was creeping toward €1.2 billion, and LaLiga president Javier Tebas warned that, without huge cutbacks, they would not be permitted to register a new deal for Messi. (It’s still not clear whether they will even be able to register their summer signings before the league kicks off this weekend: Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal were all ostensibly signed to keep Messi happy with the squad.)
It didn’t take long for Lionel Messi’s future to clarify; once it was confirmed he couldn’t continue at Barcelona last Thursday, he was unveiled as PSG’s latest superstar on Tuesday. Aurelien Meunier – PSG/PSG via Getty Images
Barcelona blamed those financial issues for being unable to keep Messi, but the story runs deeper than that. This was about years of mismanagement and overspending; a feud between LaLiga and its top two clubs; two of the biggest figures in Barca’s recent history falling out; a late plot twist; and hurried negotiations in Paris stretching late into the night.
It all contributed to the realisation of a dream held by Qatar Sports Investments since QSI purchased PSG in 2011. This is how one of the game’s greatest-ever players was forced to leave his boyhood club after a record-breaking 672 goals in 778 games and 35 trophies in 16 glittering seasons.
With additional reporting by Rob Dawson, Eduardo Fernandez-Abascal, Moises Llorens and Rodrigo Faez
The breaking point for Messi, Barcelona, LaLiga
Two weeks ago, Messi was certain he would sign a new deal with Barcelona, but by the time he flew to Paris on Tuesday, he felt let down and betrayed by the club. He didn’t criticise anyone when he said goodbye in a news conference on Sunday, but he hinted he wasn’t completely satisfied that the club had done all they could to keep him.
In fact, Messi had already reached an agreement to extend his contract with Barcelona. Sources told ESPN in July th