A tearful Lionel Messi has stated his next move is not confirmed at an emotional farewell news conference Sunday, but ESPN sources said a deal with Paris Saint-Germain has already been agreed.
Messi, who has been a free agent since his contract expired at Camp Nou on June 30, had maintained his silence since Barca revealed on Thursday that he will not sign new terms because of financial problems.
The Argentina forward said he had received several calls from clubs since the news broke, confirming PSG’s interest, and multiple sources have told ESPN that he has already agreed to sign for the Ligue 1 side.
Sources added that Messi is expected to travel to Paris soon before completing a medical in the coming days and signing a two-year deal with the option for a third season. He could be presented at an event at the Eiffel Tower in the coming days.
“[PSG] is one possibility,” Messi said. “There’s nothing closed at the moment, but we’re talking about a lot of things. After Barca’s statement, a lot of clubs showed an interest. There’s nothing final but, of course, there are talks.”
Asked about the prospect of joining a rival, he added: “There is no doubt that I will go to a team that will compete with Barca. I didn’t want to leave, but I have to. And I want to keep winning. That’s my mentality. I want to win.”
Messi said a photograph of him with several PSG players in the Spanish island resort of Ibiza last week, including Neymar and Angel Di Maria, was just a coincidence, although he said they did joke about him moving to Paris.
Instead, in an event at the auditorium to the side of Camp Nou attended by the board, the first-team squad and his family, Messi insisted he had done everything possible to stay at Barca.
“I am really sad because I didn’t want to leave because this is the club I love,” he said. “I didn’t expect this. I have never lied; I have always been honest and upfront. Last year I wanted to leave; this year I didn’t. That’s why I am so sad.
“As the president [Joan Laporta] has explained, the club has debt [problems]. It’s not possible. Why keep drawing it out if it’s nearly impossible? The talks stopped as Barca did not want to go on, they knew LaLiga would not let it happen, it was impossible.
“I did everything I could to stay and it wasn’t possible. I offered to reduce my salary by 50% and Barca didn’t ask for anything else. They didn’t ask for another 30%; that’s a lie.” Messi, 34, had agreed to a new five-year contract with Barca, but that would have meant the club’s wage bill stood at 110% of their revenue.
Their spending cap with LaLiga has dropped from over €600 million in 2019-20 to an expected €200m for the coming season, making it impossible to register Messi’s new deal, even with a big pay cut. His previous terms included a base salary of around €70m gross without bonuses.