By Simon Abaho
A tearful Lionel Messi confirmed on Sunday he was leaving Barcelona after the club said it could no longer afford to pay the Argentine’s high wages, adding he was in negotiations with French club Paris Saint-Germain over a possible move.
French newspaper L’Equipe reported on Sunday that the Argentine will travel to the French capital either Sunday or Monday to undertake a medical and finalize his deal with the Qatar Sports Investment-owned club.
While Messi did not confirm he would definitely join the Parisians, he said his plans were to carry on playing as long as possible and suggested his next move would be to a European rival of Barcelona.
‘As long as I go on being competitive and as long as my body responds (I’ll carry on playing),’ he told a news conference.
‘As long as I can, I will carry on competing.’
He added: ‘I tried to behave with humility and respect and I hope that is what remains of me when I leave the club.’
Hundreds of fans, many wearing his No 10 jersey, crowded outside Barca’s Nou Camp stadium to bid farewell to the player they call the Messiah.
The 34-year-old, who has been at the club for 21 years, becoming its all-time goalscorer with 682 strikes, broke down in tears before giving a speech and was greeted by a lengthy standing ovation from the media, current and former team mates and coaches in attendance.
Messi said that he believed he would be staying at the club, with a five-year deal agreed on a 50 per cent pay-cut, only for a surprise U-turn to happen late last week.
‘Honestly, when the elections happened (in March), I spoke with (club president Joan) Laporta, we had dinner and after that I was convinced I would be staying,’ he said.
‘My contract was never the issue… What I know is that I did everything I could. The club say it could not happen because of LaLiga.
‘I can guarantee you that I did everything I could to stay. Last year I didn’t want to and I said that, but this year it was different.’
All 35 trophies he won during his time at the club were laid out for what the club described would be a private photo session after the news conference.
He also said: ‘This year, my family and I were convinced we were going to stay at home, that’s what we all wanted more than anything.
‘We’d always made this our own, we were at home. We thought we would be staying here in Barcelona. But today, we have to say goodbye to all of this.’
The 34-year-old, who has been heavily linked with a move to PSG where he would join up with former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, had been set to remain at the Nou Camp but is now a free agent.
He added: ‘I did everything possible and the club, Laporta, they couldn’t do it because of LaLiga.
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