Lionel Messi says he will remain at Barcelona next season after performing a shock U-turn on his future.
Messi had believed that a clause in his contract would allow him to leave for free this summer, but Barcelona and La Liga insist that his €700m release clause would need to be paid in full.
“I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not,” Messi told Goal.
“Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for La Liga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season.
“And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club. Now I am going to continue in the club because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700m (£624m) clause, and that this is impossible.”
Messi’s father and agent Jorge wrote to La Liga on Friday insisting his son is contractually allowed to leave Barcelona for free in the current transfer window.
However, La Liga responded with a statement shortly after Messi’s declaration – reiterating its stance that the €700m release clause remains valid.
Messi says he has never considered taking the matter to trial in order to force an exit from the club where he has spent the entirety of his professional career.
“There was another way and it was to go to trial,” he added. “I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, which gave me everything since I arrived.
“It is the club of my life, I have made my life here. Barca gave me everything and I gave it everything. I know that it never crossed my mind to take Barca to court.”
Messi had informed the club of his desire to leave via an official note last week, and did not turn up for the team’s first five days of pre-season training under new boss Ronald Koeman.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner says he wants to leave Barcelona to compete at the “highest level” after a disappointing season, which culminated in a 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
“When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama,” Messi added.
“The whole family began crying, my children did not want to leave Barcelona, nor did they want to change schools.
“But I looked further afield and I want to compete at the highest level, win titles, compete in the Champions League. You can win or lose in it, because it is very difficult, but you have to compete.
“At least compete for it and let us not fall apart in Rome, Liverpool, Lisbon. All that led me to think about that decision that I wanted to carry out.”