Barcelona living legend Lionel Messi gave a major interview to journalist Jordi Evole on Spanish network La Sexta this week.
The conversation saw him quizzed on his future at Camp Nou, his relationship with former president Josep Bartomeu, his view on the club’s immediate future after January’s presidential election and even his own mental health and wellbeing.
Here’s a look at 11 of the biggest revelations that have come from the interview….
It was rumoured at the time of Messi’s request to leave Barca in the summer that the treatment of close friend Luis Suarez had played a part.
He has denied that is true, although he still thinks the club handled the situation badly, especially seeing as Suarez joined Atletico Madrid.
“Luis Suarez’s departure had nothing to do with the decision but I felt it was crazy the way his exit was handled and that Barcelona let him go to a direct rival.”
The idea that Messi sent a fax…in 2020…to make clear his desire to leave Barcelona raised a few eyebrows. But he has explained that he wanted something quite formal to indicate it to the club because Bartomeu had repeatedly dismissed his verbal requests.
“The last six months, many times, I told the president that I was leaving, that I wanted to leave, to help me, that I wanted to leave and he [said] no, no, no. It was a way of saying I want to go seriously.”
Messi has actually been linked with Real Madrid in the past, with Real president Florentino Perez rumoured to have made an approach at least once, possibly more. But even if Messi opts to leave Camp Nou, that option, as well as Atletico Madrid, is not one he’ll even entertain.
“I’m not going to join Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid. It’s absolutely impossible.”
Messi has explained that the reason he felt it was time to leave Camp Nou at the end of last season was because the club had reached the end of a cycle.
He also commented that it made him unhappy that his decision to request to leave was portrayed as a move of disloyalty or questioning his love for the club in general.
“That bothered me…I felt I’d completed a cycle and it was time to leave the club that had given me so much. I wanted to win titles and battle for the Champions League and felt it was time for change. The president then started to filter this and that to paint a negative picture of me.”
The Messi issue is going to be the first thing that whoever wins next month’s Barcelona presidential election will be tasked with addressing. But, as of yet, none have directly spoken to him about what their plans might be if they secure the position.
Messi himself isn’t even sure if he will cast a vote in the ballot.
“I am not sure if I’ll vote in the forthcoming presidential elections. Whoever comes in will find the club in a tricky state and will have to work hard to put the club back where it was. As yet none of the candidates have called me.”
Although Messi is eligible to formally negotiate a pre-contract agreement with other clubs with a view to a free transfer in summer as of 1 January, he has made it clear that he will not engage in such talks and that no decision on his future will be made until the end of the season.
“I’m not thinking too far ahead in the short-term and just want to see how the season finishes.
“I will not negotiate with other clubs. I will wait for the season to end and in June I will decide.”
Messi was asked if he had ever been cheated by Bartomeu and said it happened ‘many, many times’ in the last few years.
“In many things, the truth is in many things.
“I prefer not to talk about private things that happened, I am not going to bring up what was said and what was promised, but I can assure you that many, many times in several years.”
Messi has severely dampened the possibility of the next generation being coached by one of the greatest of all time as that is not a path he wants to go down after retiring from playing.
He wants to stay in football after he hangs up his boots, just not as a coach and instead as some kind of club official or front office executive.
“…ultimately come back to Barcelona in some capacity [after retirement].
“I would like to be involved in football, not as a coach, I don’t see myself coaching, but maybe as a sporting director.”
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have both been heavily linked with Messi should be leave Barcelona at the end of this season, as he is still operating at a world-class level. Fans in his native Rosario pleaded with him to rejoin boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys over the summer as well.
But the player himself named the United States as a country in which he would like to live and play before hanging up his boots for good. Does that mean a switch to MLS?
“I would like to play in the United States and experience life and the league there.”
Playing in MLS doesn’t have to be immediate and Messi also fuelled the possibility of a spell at Manchester City. That is because he maintains contact with Pep Guardiola and, even though they haven’t discussed a transfer, it is surely a good sign for City fans that regular dialogue is there.
His underlying admiration for his former coach could put City in pole position.
“I don’t know how long my last chat with Pep Guardiola was, but we do talk. We don’t talk about whether we are going to meet again. For me Pep is the best, he has something special.”
In perhaps the most open aspect of the interview, Messi has admitted that he should be listening to wife Antonella Rocuzzo urging him to attend counselling for his mental wellbeing, although is yet to actually go through with it.
“I should have gone but I never went.
“I find it really hard to take that step even though I know it’s something that I need. They have insisted many times that it’s what I need. I’m someone who keeps everything in and does not share things. I know I need it. I know it would be good for me but I have not done it.”