Madrid: Struggling to control his emotions, Lionel Messi said in his farewell to Barcelona on Sunday that he was not ready to leave the club.
Messi started crying even before he began speaking at his farewell ceremony at the Camp Nou stadium.
“It’s very hard for me to be here all my life, after all these years,” he said. “I wasn’t ready.”
Messi described his unexpected departure from the club as the “toughest” moment of his career.
Messi’s family and some of his teammates were at Camp Nou for the player’s farewell.
Messi refrained from speaking specifically about his future, saying that he received offers from several clubs after the announcement of leaving the Catalan club.
Barcelona announced on Thursday it could not keep its greatest player because it was not able to fit a new contract within the Spanish league’s financial fair-play rules. The club’s salary cap has come down significantly due to heavy debt. President Joan Laporta blamed the club’s struggles on the coronavirus pandemic and in particular the previous administration led by Josep Bartomeu.
Messi asked to leave at the end of the 2019–20 season, but his request was denied by Bartomeu. The Argentine star had agreed to stay and settled with Barcelona on a new contract, but the club was not able to make it work due to its dire financial situation.
Messi spent nearly two decades with the Catalan club after coming from Argentina as a teenager to play in their youth squads. He made his first team debut in 2004 as a 17-year-old, then played 17 seasons with the main team. He helped the club win the Champions League four times, the Spanish League 10 times, the Copa del Rey seven times and the Spanish Super Cup eight times.
Messi went on to become Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer with 672 goals. He played 778 matches with the club, which is also a record. He is also the top scorer in the Spanish league with 474 goals in 520 matches.
He led the Spanish league in scoring in eight seasons, and was the top scorer in the Champions League six times. His 26 goals against Real Madrid is a record for “classico” matches against Barcelona’s arch rivals.