KEY POINTS

  • Lionel Messi filed a transfer request earlier this year
  • Messi opted to stay with Barcelona due to a large $825 million-release fee
  • Josep Maria Bartomeu wants Messi to end career with Barca

FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu vows to do everything in his power to keep football superstar Lionel Messi happy at Camp Nou.

Speaking about the topic for the first time since Messi attempted to leave Barcelona, Bartomeu revealed that he acted in the club's best interest by refusing to accede to the request of the Argentine pitch sensation.

“Our priority was keeping Messi as part of our new project, so I decided against starting a discussion,” he told Goal

“I had been accused of forcing his departure in order to balance our books. Well, no, we put the interests of the club first, and [I] didn't want to reinforce a direct rival. We made that decision knowing that we would be criticized for it,” Bartomeu added.

In August, Messi sent Barcelona an official document notifying them of his desire to part ways with the club. But the team's front office argued that his ability to opt out of an extension had passed and that any squad wishing to acquire him would have to pay his $825 million release clause.

Messi eventually elected to stay with Barcelona, stating that he couldn't afford to take the club to court over his release.

“I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not,” Messi said in an interview with Goal this past September.

Bartomeu clarified that he just wanted the best for Messi as he expects Barcelona to win a title this season.

“I understand the positions of everyone. Empathizing is important. In the case of Leo, it is good to get angry because it is not good to accept defeat and we have all gotten angry,” the president stressed.

“But there was a deadline for him to announce whether or not he was going unilaterally. He didn't and here it is. We all want him to retire at Barca."

With Messi remaining as the key figure for the Blaugranas, they’re looking to get back on the winning track. Their next match is on Wednesday against Juventus in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.

Lionel Messi's last ambition is to win the World Cup with Argentina Lionel Messi's last ambition is to win the World Cup with Argentina Photo: AFP / Jack GUEZ