Lionel Messi hits back at Barcelona president over claim he could’ve played for free

Lionel Messi has criticised Barcelona president Joan Laporta for suggesting he could have stayed at the club and played for free.

Six-time world player of the year Messi left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer as the Catalan giants struggled amid a financial crisis.

Messi had said he would accept a 50 per cent pay cut in discussions over a new contract at the Nou Camp but a deal could not be reached.

Laporta later said he had been hoping Messi would offer to play for nothing.

Speaking about his departure, Messi told Spanish newspaper Sport: “The truth is, as I explained when I left, I did everything possible to stay.

“Never at any moment did they ask me to play for free. They asked me to reduce my salary by 50 per cent 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 off you and not accepting the responsibility or taking charge of things. That makes people think and generates all types of doubts that I don’t think I deserve.”

If there’s the chance, I would like to go back and contribute what I can because it’s the club I love.

Messi, 34, had spent all his professional career prior to his summer move at Barcelona.

He admits he misses the club and would like to return in some capacity one day.

The Argentina international said: “I always said that I would love to help the club and be useful. I would love to be a sporting director at some point. I don’t know if it will be in Barcelona or not, or if it will be something else.

“If there’s the chance, I would like to go back and contribute what I can because it’s the club I love and I would love them to keep doing well, growing and being one of the best in the world.”

Messi has agreed a two-year contract at PSG and, having now settled, says he is “happy” in the French capital.

He added: “Now I am more relaxed, more settled in and, obviously, thinking about everything I have here and what’s to come in a sporting and family sense.”

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