Lionel Messi fought back tears Sunday as he began a press conference at which he confirmed he is leaving Barcelona, where he has played his entire career.
The 34-year-old Argentinian superstar, a six times Ballon d’Or winner, has been out of contract since the end of June and Barca say they cannot afford to keep him.
Speaking to journalists, he said: “This year, my family and myself were convinced that we were going to stay in our home. That was what we wanted the most but unfortunately, today I am here to say goodbye after many years, my whole life here. I was only 13 years old when I arrived here.”
“After 21 years I am leaving with my three Catalan Argentine children,” said Messi, who won 10 league titles with the club.
“I gave everything for this club from the first day that I arrived right to the last. I never imagined having to say goodbye,” he added.
Paris Saint-Germain is widely expected to try to entice him to the Parc des Princes. Asked about joining the French side, Messi said “it is a possibility, yeah.”
“But right now, I don’t have anything signed with any club. Obviously, when the club communicated I was leaving, I received a lot of phone calls of clubs showing interest. However, there is nothing confirmed yet, but we are talking, yeah,” he said.
Last year he sought to engineer a release from his contract in frustration at some poor showings in Europe by the club where he has won four Champions Leagues but ended up staying.
Last month Barcelona, battling huge debts, had said they were in agreement in principle with the player and his entourage on a new five-year deal on much reduced wages.