Seemingly scorned by Barcelona's failure to sign Neymar in the summer, Lionel Messi gave a very cryptic message about his future, saying that although Barcelona was his home, he wanted to win.
His words ignited global interest and led to a flurry of headlines, although most cannot picture the Argentine anywhere other than in the blue and garnet of Barcelona, most of all due to the Argentine's loyalty.
Barcelona president Mario Bartomeu recently confirmed that Messi had a clause in his contract which would allow him to leave for free at the end of the season. Gerard Pique also spoke about having knowledge of the clause, but both maintained that Messi would be going nowhere. The club's prize jewel, however, did not speak as clearly on the matter.
Speaking to Sport, Messi said when probed about his 'get-out clause': "I can’t confirm anything because there are confidentiality agreements in our contracts. What I can say is that I want to be at Barcelona as long as possible. I’ve said throughout my career that this is my home. But I also don’t want to have a long-term contract and only be here because of it. I want to be here because physically I’m fine, to play and be an important member of the squad. And as I said before, I need see there’s a winning team because I want to keep winning things at this club. For me, money or a clause don’t mean anything. Other things motivate me and the most important thing is having a winning team."
He added: "Obviously, I want to win and I want to win at this club. This is my home. I don’t have any intention of going anywhere but I want to keep competing and winning."
Much of the interview was dedicated to talk of Neymar, with Messi admitting that he did not know whether the board had done everything possible to pry the Brazilian away from PSG. Messi did admit that he would have loved to have Neymar back at the Nou Camp.
"I would have loved to have Neymar back. I understand those people who are against his return and it’s understandable for what happened with Ney and the way that he left. But thinking about it on a sporting level, I personally think Neymar is one of the best players in the world and having him in our squad would increase our chances of achieving our objectives. But, in the end, it didn’t happen and we have to only think about the squad we have and focus on our goals."
When asked about the board's attempts to lure Neymar away from Paris, Messi said: "To be honest, I don’t know. I didn’t have much information about how the negotiations were going to say whether or not Barcelona did everything possible.
"I don’t know what happened with the board. I know that I spoke with Ney and he told me how things were going. He was desperate to come back. I don’t know if the club really tried or not. What I do know, Neymar was hoping it would happen. I also understand it’s very difficult to negotiate with PSG after all their previous back and forth issues with Barcelona. And it’s difficult because Neymar is one of the best around. Negotiations are never easy. I can’t offer an opinion because I don’t know everything. I know what was published and what they said."
Messi also refused to say that the Barcelona squad was better than the last season, despite the signings of Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong. When asked about if the team had improved over last season, he said: "I don’t know if it’s better or not. Last year we had a very good squad as well. It’s true that very important players have arrived and now we have greater depth, more variety, both in midfield and upfront. Next year will decide whether it’s better or not. It depends on what we achieve."
The 32-year-old, who has made plenty of headlines in tabloids for apparently always forcing his will on Barcelona, was also asked if he actually decided what happens at the club as reported once again this summer.
"I’m used to it by now. It isn’t the first time I’ve heard that [I'm running the club] either. It’s clear this isn’t the case. The same thing is said about the national team. They claim I pick the players and the coaches or that my father does. I don’t pay too much attention to it. I know what my role and the truth is," Messi, who is mockingly referred to as 'the little dictator' by rival fans in light of such rumours, said.
When asked point-blank whether or not he controlled things, Messi responded: "Obviously not. I’m just another player. The only thing I want is to win and continue to lift titles. I also want to win another Champions League and give my best to the team, which is by playing football."
Messi, who has been out injured for Barcelona's opening games, said that he was not worried about the team's current form which has seen them win just one of three La Liga games. However, when asked if he would exchange La Liga title for Champions League glory, the winner in Messi came out again.
"No. When we start the season we always say the same thing that we want to win everything and try our best to achieve that. I hope we can settle in quickly, we want to win every title. But it’s clear I would like to win the Champions League because it’s been a long time since I last did that. As a club, and on a personal level, we must win the Champions League. But at the start of the season I wouldn’t take one or the other. I want to win them both."
Finally, the Argentine was asked if he would take up Cristiano Ronaldo's offer of dinner. The duo sat next to each other, and shared similarly baffled expressions at Eric Cantona's speech, at the UEFA awards recently and Ronaldo stated that he would sit down with Messi for dinner 'soon'. Asked if he would accept the invitation, Messi said: "Yes, I don’t have any problem with that. I’ve always said that I don’t have any issue with him. We might not be friends because we’ve never shared a dressing room together but I always see him at award shows and there’s no problem. We actually spoke with each other for quite a long time at the most recent show. I don’t know if there will be a dinner because I don’t know if our paths will cross for obvious reasons, each one of us has our own life and our own commitments. But obviously I would accept the invitation."