Lionel Messi to leave Barcelona after 17 years, confirms club
Lionel Messi, who arrived at Barcelona aged 13 and made his competitive debut in 2004, leaves the La Liga club after 17 successful seasons in which he won a staggering 35 titles. The club confirmed in a statement that 'economic and structural obstacles' had prevented a deal from being ratified by LaLiga.
Messi remains a free agent and leaves Barcelona having scored 672 times in 778 games. Although an agreement has been reached between FC Barcelona and Leo Messi it cannot be formalized due to economic and structural obstacles," said a statement from the club. "Faced with this situation, Lionel Messi will not remain linked to Barcelona. Both sides deeply regret that the wishes of both the player and the club cannot come true."
Last season was a comparative disappointment as the club could only land the Spanish Cup and exited in the last 16 of the Champions League, which they last won back in 2015. There had been speculation that Messi would sign on for two years and then potentially head to Major League Soccer, although a friend and former Barca teammate Neymar has said he would love to team up with him again at Paris Saint Germain.
Barcelona was one of the clubs hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The league slashed its salary cap last season and the club had been trying to clear cap space by releasing some of its players. It had only signed free agents this summer — including Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero, and Eric Garcia — to avoid paying transfer fees.
Messi had been tight-lipped about his plans. He granted just two interviews over the past year -- one in December and the other at the end of the season -- and both times he said: "nothing has been decided". But Joan Laporta had made keeping Messi on the team a priority ever since he was re-elected as Barcelona president in March. "Leo loves Barca and knows that we are a big family. Hopefully that can help us encourage him to stay," he said at the time.
The last president Josep Maria Bartomeu was forced to resign in October after the club's members succeeded in achieving a vote of no confidence against him following Messi's attempt to leave.