The Argentinian saw his last deal with the club expire in June, and despite serious financial issues within Barca, both parties were able to negotiate a new deal.
However, that deal could not be signed. The club released a statement in August that Messi could not officially sign a new contract due to “financial and structural obstacles” as well as LaLiga regulations on player registration.
Messi subsequently moved on to Paris Saint-Germain, bringing to an end a 21-year association with the Spanish giants.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta has now revealed that he hoped Messi would agree to play for the club for free.
Laporta on Messi wish
He told Spanish radio station ESports RAC1 (quotes via The Athletic): “I love him too much to be angry. But there comes a time when you see that things just cannot happen, and there was disappointment on both sides.”
“There was a desire for him to stay, but pressure because of the offer he had. He knew that he’d go to PSG if he didn’t stay.”
“He’ll go down as the best player in the history of Barcelona and I want that to be preserved. Everything indicates that he had the PSG offer before leaving Barcelona. We knew he had a big offer.”
“What I did hope was that he would have a change of heart, that he’d say: ‘I’ll play for free’.”
“My understanding is that LaLiga would have accepted it, but we couldn’t ask a player of Messi’s stature to do that.”
After Messi’s high profile departure, Barca spent much of the summer persuading their top stars to take wage deferrals.
All four of the club’s captains – Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto – and others agreed to wage deferrals for this season, allowing them to register new signings.
To give a broader picture of Barca’s financial crisis, chief executive Ferran Reverter said the club was “technically bankrupt” when Laporta took over from previous incumbent Josep Maria Bartomeu back in March.
On the pitch, Ronald Koeman‘s side have had a difficult start to the 2021/22 season. They have won three of their opening seven games, and sit 11th in LaLiga. However, winning their game in hand could take to within two points of the top of the table.
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