KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Lionel Messi has admitted defeat in his bid to force an instant departure from Barcelona.

The club’s insistence that, either, he should see out his contract which expires next year or a would-be purchaser should pay his €700m exit clause, left the Argentinian with little option but to agree, reluctantly, to play one more year for a club for which he does not want to serve.

In a statement the 33-year-old said: “I am going to continue in the club because the president (Josep Maria Bartomeu) told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700m euros clause, and that is impossible, and then the only other way was to go to court.

Lionel Messi . . . change of heart

“I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, that gave me everything since I arrived, it is the club of my life, I have made my life here. That’s why I’m staying.”

In what looks like an unsatisfactory outcome for all parties, Messi is still unhappy with the way the club is run but will begrudgingly see out the final year of his contract – before presumably leaving for nothing next summer.

He added: “I’ll continue at Barcelona and my attitude won’t change. No matter how much I have wanted to go.

Loyalty pledge

“I always want to win, I’m competitive and I don’t like to lose anything. I always want the best for the club, for the dressing room and for myself.

“I told the club, the president, that I wanted to go. I’ve been telling him all year. I thought my time in Barcelona was over, sadly – I always wanted to finish my career here.

“The president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not end up keeping his word.”

Messi stunned Barcelona fans last month when he sent a fax to the LaLiga giants asking to have his contract terminated, but it is that very contract clause that has brought about his change of heart.

He had been a member of the lacklustre Barcelona side that was thrashed 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final, and the first meeting with new manager Ronald Koeman did not go smoothly.

Messi wanted to activate a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave Barca for free at the end of the season, and not for the €700m fee that was otherwise stipulated in the deal, which expires next summer.

Barca, though, said that the clause had already expired in June.

Explaining his initial bid to quit the club, Messi said: “I told the club, including the president, that I wanted to go. I’ve been telling him that all year. I believed it was time to step aside,” Messi told Goal.

“I told the president and, well, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not keep his word.

New strategy

“I believed that the club needed more young players, new players and I thought my time in Barcelona was over. I felt very sorry because I always said that I wanted to finish my career here.

“It was a very difficult year, I suffered a lot in training, in games and in the dressing room. Everything became very difficult for me and there came a time when I considered looking for new ambitions.”

Messi insisted it was not the Bayern beating which made him want to leave, more the consistent failings in that competition including losses at Roma and Liverpool in the previous two years.

He said: “It did not come because of the Champions League result against Bayern, no – I had been thinking about the decision for a long time.”

The Messi timeline

August 14: Messi and Barcelona are humiliated as they crash out of the Champions League following an 8-2 thrashing by eventual winners Bayern Munich in their one-off quarter-final clash.

August 17: Head coach Quique Setien pays the price for the crushing Bayern defeat and finishing second to Real Madrid in LaLiga as he is sacked just over eight months after taking charge at the Nou Camp – his relationship with Messi had reportedly turned sour.

August 19: Former Barca midfielder Ronald Koeman leaves his job as manager of Holland to take over from Setien, with reports claiming he told Messi he would no longer have the “privileges” he had become accustomed to.

August 25: Messi sends a burofax to Barcelona chiefs informing them he wishes to leave – with claims of disagreements between the player and the club of the validity of a contract clause which would allow him to move away for free.

August 30: Messi does not turn up for his scheduled Covid-19 test ahead of Barcelona’s start to pre-season training – meaning he cannot join in with Koeman’s plans. Later in the day LaLiga issues a statement siding with Barcelona in the dispute over whether Messi can depart for nothing.

September 2: Messi and his father Jorge hold a meeting with Barcelona, after Messi senior has told the Spanish press it would be “difficult” for his son to stay at the Nou Camp.

September 4: Messi’s father Jorge writes to LaLiga insisting his son is contractually allowed to leave Barcelona for free in the current transfer window. However, Messi later confirms his intention was to stay because he did not want to take Barcaelona to court.