Lionel Messi says it was inappropriate for Barcelona president Joan Laporta to say he could have played for free but has suggested he would have been willing to accept an even bigger pay cut to stay at Camp Nou.
Barca could not afford to keep hold of their greatest ever player amid their financial distress, with the club finding themselves more than £1billion in debt and recording a £409million during the previous campaign.
The Argentine accepted a salary cut of 50% in the summer but Barca were still unable to register him with LaLiga, as their spending limit for the season was reduced to just €97 million, almost €300m less than last year.
Leo Messi to Sport: “No one from Barcelona asked me to play for free, I got a cut of over 50% and I was willing to help the club even more. President Joan Laporta’s words hurt me – I did not deserve it”. 🔴 #Messi
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 1, 2021
Laporta had said he “hoped Messi would do a U-turn” and “play for free” in a radio interview with RAC1, but admitted he couldn’t ask a player of his stature to agree to such a gesture.
Messi has now broken his silence in responding to those remarks, conceded an interview with Catalan media outlet SPORT, where he revealed that he did everything possible to stay and he was bothered by what Laporta said about his situation.
“The truth is, as I explained when I left, I did everything possible to stay,” Messi told SPORT in an interview published on Monday.
“Never at any moment did they ask me to play for free. They asked me to reduce my salary by 50% and I did it without any problem. We were willing to help the club more. My desire and that of my family was to stay in Barcelona.
“No one asked me to play for free, but at the same time the president’s words were inappropriate. It hurt because I don’t think there was any need to say that.
“It’s like taking the ball from you and not accepting the responsibility or taking charge of things. That makes people think and generates doubts that I don’t think I deserve.”
Messi, who scored 672 goals in 778 games for FC Barcelona, has struggled to settle into his new life in Paris. He’s goalless in five league games so far, although he managed to find the net in three Champions League matches.