'I wasn't happy': Lionel Messi moves to avoid court battle

Lionel Messi has reluctantly agreed to remain with Barcelona, in order to avoid a likely court battle to leave the club. (Photo by Manu Fernandez/Pool via Getty Images)
Lionel Messi has reluctantly agreed to remain with Barcelona, in order to avoid a likely court battle to leave the club. (Photo by Manu Fernandez/Pool via Getty Images)

Lionel Messi has ended speculation about his future at Barcelona by announcing he would reluctantly stay for another season rather than tackle his career-long club in court.

A week after saying he wanted to leave the Liga side, and with a contract row still raging, the 33-year-old six-time player of the year gave the news Barca fans were hoping for.

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In doing so, however, the Argentine forward took a big swipe at the club's hierarchy.

"I wasn't happy and I wanted to leave. I have not been allowed this in any way and I will STAY at the club so as not to get into a legal dispute," he was quoted as saying by Goal.com.

"The management of the club led by (president Josep Maria) Bartomeu is a disaster.

"I told the club, the president in particular, that I wanted to leave. They knew this since the start of the past season. I told them during all (of the) last 12 months. But I will stay here because I don't want to start a legal war."

By remaining at the Catalan club for the fourth and final year of his contract Messi is in line for a $A114 million loyalty bonus and will be able to leave without a transfer fee.

Earlier on Friday, Messi's father and representative Jorge had insisted in a letter to La Liga that a $A1.1billion release clause in the player's contract was not valid and his son could leave for free.

However, despite the standoff between the Messi camp and Barcelona and La Liga, the player has ended the impasse and will see out his contract with the club with whom he has won more than 30 major trophies and scored over 600 goals.

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The news that Messi will be staying at the Camp Nou, albeit reluctantly, will disappoint the clubs who were hoping to sign the iconic forward, including Premier League Manchester City, managed by his former Barca boss Pep Guardiola.

Argentine pay TV station TYC Sports, which has close links with Messi, had reported earlier on Friday that Messi was poised to stay with the Catalan club he joined as a teenager.

A 50-50 split image shows Lionel Messi on the left and Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu on the right.
Lionel Messi has taken aim at Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, claiming the club president went back on his word that he would be allowed to leave the club. (Photo by MANU FERNANDEZ,LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

The situation was further complicated when Jorge Messi wrote to La Liga president Javier Tebas dismissing their claim that the release clause still applied if his son wished to leave.

He accused La Liga, who on Sunday backed Barca's stance, of making an error in their interpretation of the contract.

La Liga responded to Jorge Messi's letter by saying it stood by a statement in support of Barcelona issued on Sunday.