Lionel Messi is staying with Barcelona for the time being, confirming his U-turn in a gripping and emotional interview with Goal Spain.

Published on Friday, the interview was wide-ranging but entirely pinned on the recent furore, which began on August 25 when he informed Barca of his desire to leave.

At the time Messi was under the impression he could unilaterally terminate his contract at the end of the 2019-20 season, but Barca claimed the clause had expired in June and LaLiga backed the club up.

With Manchester City circling, Messi's father and agent, Jorge, travelled to Barcelona on Wednesday in an attempt to find a compromise, but seemingly there was none to be found.

As Barca insisted the only way Messi could leave was through the payment of his €700million release clause, the club's talisman and captain has accepted he has no choice but to stay.

But as he made perfectly clear in his interview with Goal Spain, he is not happy about it. Read on for the full transcript…

 

MESSI STAYS - THE FULL INTERVIEW

Why did it take you time to break your silence

"Firstly, because after the defeat in Lisbon it was very hard. We knew Bayern Munich were a very difficult opponent, but not that we were going to end that way, giving such a poor image of the city and the club of Barcelona. We gave a very bad image. It was wrong, I didn't feel like doing anything. I wanted time to pass and then come out to clarify everything."

 

Why did you tell Barca that you could go?

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

 

Have you ever felt lonely?

"No… I didn't feel alone. Not alone. There are those who have always been by my side. That is enough for me and strengthens me. But I did feel hurt by things that I heard from people, from journalists, from people questioning my commitment to Barcelona and saying things that I think I didn't deserve. It also helped me to see the truth in people. This world of football is very difficult and there are many false people. This happening has helped me to recognise many false people. It hurt me when my love for this club was questioned. No matter how much I go or stay, my love for Barca will never change."

 

Everything has been spoken of. The money factor, your friends. What has hurt the most after 20 years defending the Barca shirt?

"A bit of everything, my friends, money… many things that have been said have hurt. I always put the club before anything else. I had the possibility of leaving Barca many times. The money? Every year I could have left and earned more money than at Barcelona. I always said that this was my home and it was what I felt and feel. To decide there was somewhere better than here was difficult. I felt that I needed a change and new goals, new things."

 

In the end it is very difficult to give up 20 years, a whole life, a family that is in Barcelona, ​​a city, and that is what weighs more when making a decision. Because I understand that in the end you will stay in Barcelona. You are still at Barcelona...

"Of course, I had a hard time deciding. It does not come from the Bayern result, it comes from many things. I always said I wanted to end here and I always said I wanted to stay here. That I wanted a winning project and to win titles with the club, to continue expanding the legend of Barcelona at the top level. And the truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by. As I said before, I always thought about the welfare of my family and the club."

What happened when you told your family that you can leave Barcelona?

"When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama. The whole family began crying, my children did not want to leave Barcelona, ​​nor did they want to change schools. I looked further afield and I want to compete at the highest level, win titles, compete in the Champions League. You can win or lose in it, because it is very difficult, but you have to compete. At least compete in it and let us not fall apart in Rome, Liverpool, Lisbon. All that led me to think about the decision that I wanted to carry out. As I said, 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. Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for La Liga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered the whole season. And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club. Now I am going to continue in the club because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700million clause, and that this is impossible. There was another way and it was to go to trial. I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, which gave me everything since I arrived, it is the club of my life, I have made my life here. Barca gave me everything and I gave it everything. I know that it never crossed my mind to take Barca to court."

 

Is that what has hurt you the most, that there are people who think you could have hurt Barca? You have been defending the club for years. Has it hurt you that they doubt your commitment?

"It has hurt me a lot that things are published against me and, above all, that false things are published. Or that they came to think that I could go to trial against Barca in order to benefit myself. I would never do such a thing. I repeat, I wanted to go and it was entirely my right, because the contract said that I could be released. And it is not 'I'm leaving and that's it'. I was leaving and it cost me a lot. I wanted to go because I thought about living my last years of football happily. Lately I have not found happiness within the club. "

 

That is vital, to be happy. You are a born winner. You are in a team that fights for titles and in recent seasons Barca has not competed in Europe. You are going to continue leading the team at Barca. But something will have to change at Barca, right? Something will have to change at the sporting level, right?

"I will continue at Barca and my attitude will not change no matter how much I have wanted to go. I will do my best. 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 said it at the time that we were not given the support to win the Champions League. Actually, now I don't know what will happen. There is a new coach and new ideas. That's good, but then we have to see how the team responds and whether or not it will make us compete at the top level. What I can say is that I'm staying and I'm going to give my best for Barcelona."

 

What was the first thing you thought when there were people saying you could leave and that you really didn't care about Barcelona? What was the first thing you thought? A feeling of rage?

"I felt a lot of pain that my commitment to Barcelona was doubted, with how grateful I am to this club. I love Barcelona and I'm not going to find a better place than here anywhere. Still, I have the right to decide. I was going to look for new goals and new challenges. And tomorrow I could go back, because here in Barcelona I have everything. My sons, my family, they grew up here and are from here. There was nothing wrong with wanting to leave. I needed it, the club needed it and it was good for everyone."

 

Family is something very important in your life. Your father has had a bad time, your wife too, your children. What have they asked of you? What did they tell you? They must have told you 'dad, this', 'dad, that'. Did they watch the news on TV and ask you anything?

"All this time it has been hard for everyone. I was clear about what I wanted, I have said what I felt I wanted. My wife, with all the pain of her soul, supported and accompanied me."

 

But the important member of the family is Mateo.

"Yes, Mateo is still little and he doesn't realise what it means to go somewhere else and make your life a few years elsewhere. Thiago yes, he is older. He heard something on TV and found out something and asked. I didn't want him to know anything about being forced to leave, to have to live in a new school, or make new friends. He cried to me and said, 'let's not go', I repeat that it was hard, really. It was understandable. It happened to me. It is very difficult to make a decision."

 

And to anyone. Of course, it's 20 years, that's a lifetime. You came to Barcelona at the age of your children now. That gets harder. There are two fundamental things that people would like to know... You stay at Barca, you lead the team again. An optimistic message for Barca fans for the future?

"As usual, I am going to give my best, I will do my best to fight for all the objectives and hopefully I can dedicate myself to the people who have had a bad time. I had a bad time this year, but it is hypocritical to say that if you compare it with people who have really had a bad time with the coronavirus, with people who have lost relatives and who have lost many things. Hopefully I can give my best and dedicate victories to all those people who accompany us and their families, to be able to dedicate the best to those people who are having a bad time and that we can overcome once and for all we can overcome this virus and return to normality."

 

The famous burofax. There has been a lot of talk about Messi being badly advised and badly advised regarding the decision to communicate that you wanted to leave by burofax. Why did you decide to send that burofax? What did you want to demonstrate? What was your position?

"The burofax was to make it official in some way. Throughout the year I had been telling the president that I wanted to leave, that the time had come to seek new goals and new directions in my career. He told me all the time: 'We'll talk, not now,' this and that, but nothing [happened]. The president did not give me a clue at what he was really saying. Sending the burofax was making it official that I wanted to go and that I was free and the optional year – I was not going to use it and I wanted to go. It was not to make a mess, or to go against the club, but the way to make it official because my decision had been made."

 

So, if you hadn't sent the burofax, maybe everything would have been forgotten and no one would have listened to you?

"Clearly. If I didn't send the burofax, it's like nothing happened, I have the optional year I had to have continued all year. What they say is that I did not say it [that he wanted to leave] before June 10 [when the clause expired] – but I repeat, we were in the middle of all the competitions and it was not the [right] moment. But apart from that, the president always told me, 'when the season is over, you decide if you stay or leave', he never set a date, and well, it was simply to make the club know that he was not [sticking to his word], but not to get into a fight because I did not want to fight with the club."

 

Lionel Messi has announced he will stay at Barcelona because the financial outlay required to make his desired exit a reality was "impossible".

The Argentina superstar sent shockwaves through Camp Nou last week when he announced he wanted to leave Barca in the wake of the humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Messi was of the belief he could leave on a free transfer after activating a clause allowing him to terminate his contract at the end of the season, with Manchester City quickly emerging as favourites for his signature.

LaLiga disputed that claim, though, and insisted any potential suitor would have to negotiate with Barca or pay the €700million release clause in Messi's contract, with his option to leave for nothing having expired on June 10.

Messi's father and agent Jorge met Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu to discuss the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's future on Wednesday, prior to which he stated it would be "difficult" for his son to stay.

However, reports emerged after the meeting that a transfer for Messi would likely start a civil court case, while City were also said to be unable to do a deal if a transfer fee - even one significantly below the release clause - was involved. 

Consequently, Messi confirmed on Friday he would not be moving because the option of a free transfer was no longer on the table.

He told Goal Spain: "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.

"Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for LaLiga in the middle of this awful coronavirus, and this disease altered all the season.

"This is the reason why I am going to continue with the club.

"Now I am going to continue because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700m clause, and this is impossible."

Messi is contracted to Barca until June next year and insisted his desire to leave was no snap decision after the Bayern game, having discussed the possibility of a transfer with Bartomeu throughout the season.

"The burofax was to make it official in some way," he explained. "Throughout the year I had been telling the president that I wanted to leave, that the time had come to seek new goals and new directions in my career.

"He told me all the time: 'We'll talk, now now, this and that', but nothing. The president did not give me a clue of what he was really saying.

"Sending the burofax was making it official that I wanted to go and that I was free and the option year [playing for Barcelona in 2020-21] I was not going to use."

The defeat to Bayern had already plunged Barca into chaos, even before Messi made clear his intentions, with head coach Quique Setien sacked and sporting director Eric Abidal - with whom Messi clashed - also departing.

Ronald Koeman was installed as the new coach but reportedly quickly informed Luis Suarez, Messi's close friend, he would be among the players moved on.

The status of Barca's squad heading into the new season is still uncertain, but Messi now says he is committed to performing again at Camp Nou.

"I will continue at Barca and my attitude will not change, no matter how much I wanted to go," he said. "I will do my best."

"I always wanted 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 said at the time that we were not given the support to win the Champions League. Actually, now I don't know what will happen. There is a new coach and new ideas.

"That's good, but then we have to see how the team responds and whether or not it will allow us to compete at the top level. What I can say is that I'm staying and I'm going to give my best for Barcelona."

The pressure is likely to remain on Bartomeu, however, with Messi giving a damning assessment of how Barcelona have laboured under his watch over recent seasons.

"The truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and
cover holes as things go by," he added.

"As I said before, I always thought about the welfare of my family and the club."

Lionel Messi has spoken; Barcelona's talisman and captain is staying with the Blaugrana, announcing his U-turn in an explosive interview.

Messi confirmed via Goal Spain that he has decided to stay at Camp Nou despite previously informing the club of his decision to leave.

Messi had earlier indicated he wanted to trigger a clause in his contract that would allow him to unilaterally terminate his deal at the end of the 2019-20 season.

But the season's extension meant the clause had expired, with LaLiga siding with Barca.

With no club - despite reported interest from Manchester City - able to pay his €700million release clause, Messi has opted to stay, doing so in a wide-ranging interview in which he pulled no punches.

Below are the 10 key quotes from his chat with Goal.


THE KEY QUOTES

Time to step aside

"I told the club, including the president, that I wanted to go. I've been telling him that all year. 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."

Bartomeu "did not keep his word"

"It [the decision to leave] did not come because of the Champions League result against Bayern Munich. No, I had been thinking about the decision for a long time. 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."

Somewhere better

"Every year I could have left and earned more money than at Barcelona. I always said that this was my home and it was what I felt and feel. To decide there was somewhere better than here was difficult. I felt that I needed a change and new goals, new things."

No project, no direction

"The truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by. As I said before, I always thought about the welfare of my family and the club."

Rome, Liverpool, Lisbon

"I looked further afield, I want to compete at the highest level, win titles, compete in the Champions League. You can win or lose in it, because it is very difficult, but you have to compete. At least compete for it and let us not fall apart in Rome, Liverpool, Lisbon. All that led me to think about the decision that I wanted to carry out."

Paying the clause? Impossible

"They cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for LaLiga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season. And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club. Now I am going to continue in the club because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700 million clause, and that this is impossible."

A trial? No chance

"There was another way and it was to go to trial. I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, which gave me everything since I arrived, it is the club of my life, I have made my life here. Barca gave me everything and I gave it everything. I know that it never crossed my mind to take Barca to court."

No happiness in Barcelona

"I wanted to go because I thought about living my last years of football happily. Lately I have not found happiness within the club. I will continue at Barca and my attitude will not change no matter how much I have wanted to go. I will do my best."

A new era?

"There is a new coach and new ideas. That's good, but then we have to see how the team responds and whether or not it will compete at the top level. What I can say is that I'm staying and I'm going to give my best for Barcelona."

Nowhere better

"I love Barcelona and I'm not going to find a better place than here anywhere. Still I have the right to decide. I was going to look for new goals and new challenges. And tomorrow I could go back, because here in Barcelona I have everything."

Lionel Messi has announced he will stay at Barcelona because the financial outlay required to make his desired exit a reality was "impossible".

The Argentina superstar sent shockwaves through Camp Nou last week when he announced he wanted to leave Barca in the wake of the humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Messi was of the belief he could leave on a free transfer after activating a clause allowing him to terminate his contract at the end of the season, with Manchester City quickly emerging as favourites for his signature.

LaLiga disputed that claim, though, and insisted any potential suitor would have to negotiate with Barca or pay the €700million release clause in Messi's contract, with his option to leave for nothing having expired on June 10.

Messi's father and agent Jorge met Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu to discuss the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's future on Wednesday, prior to which he stated it would be "difficult" for his son to stay.

However, reports emerged after the meeting that a transfer for Messi would likely start a civil court case, while City were also said to be unable to do a deal if a transfer fee - even one significantly below the release clause - was involved. 

Consequently, Messi confirmed on Friday he would not be moving because the option of a free transfer was no longer on the table.

He told Goa Spainl: "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.

"Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for LaLiga in the middle of this awful coronavirus, and this disease altered all the season.

"This is the reason why I am going to continue with the club.

"Now I am going to continue because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700m clause, and this is impossible."

 

Lionel Messi's €700million release clause "does not apply at all" as he seeks to leave Barcelona, his father says, although LaLiga reiterated the captain cannot walk away as a free agent.

Messi last week informed Barca he wants to move on after an 2019-20 season in which they failed to win a trophy and were hammered 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Manchester City quickly emerged as suitors for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner but are reportedly only interested in a free transfer.

Messi believed an agreement in his contract meant he could leave Camp Nou at the end of the campaign without the astronomical release clause being paid.

But with the season delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Blaugrana maintained that option has expired, and LaLiga last week said the clause would still need to be paid in full.

Jorge Messi, the Argentina forward's father and representative, responded to LaLiga's statement on Friday, however, just a day after he had acknowledged his son might stay at Barca.

He claimed the contract showed there was "an obvious error" in LaLiga's analysis.

Jorge Messi wrote to president Javier Tebas: "We do not know which contract you have analysed, and what are the bases on which you conclude that the 'termination clause' is not applicable if the player urges the unilateral termination of it with effect from the completion of the 2019-20 sports season.

"This is due to an obvious error on your part."

Jorge quoted the relevant clause in Messi's contract, then added: "Without prejudice to other rights that are included in the contract and that you omit, it is obvious that the compensation of 700 million euros, provided for in the previous clause 8.2.3.5, does not apply at all."

According to his father, Messi's contract reads: "This compensation will not apply when the termination of the contract by unilateral decision of the player takes effect from the end of the 2019-2020 sports season."

LaLiga offered a swift response, saying his claims were "decontextualised and far from reality of the contract they signed", before referring back to its earlier statement.

Reports in Argentina on Friday shortly after Jorge Messi's letter emerged claimed the Barca captain would remain at the club for the coming season.

Virgil van Dijk faces competition from three Liverpool team-mates and two rivals from Manchester City to retain his PFA Players' Player of the Year award.

Netherlands centre-back Van Dijk was the first defender to win the honour since John Terry in 2005 when he got the nod last year.

And this time around he is up against some familiar faces, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane also included after Liverpool's dominant Premier League campaign.

City, who finished a distant second as the Reds ended their 30-year title drought, have two representatives in the shape of Kevin De Bruyne and former Anfield star Raheem Sterling.

Alexander-Arnold is also in the Young Player of the Year Category, a list which contains Manchester United duo Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, Chelsea pair Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount, and Arsenal's Bukayo Saka.

In the women's game it is Chelsea who dominate the Player of the Year nominees, with Beth England, Sophie Ingle, Guro Reiten and Ji So-yun nominated along with Kim Little and holder Vivianne Miedema, both of Arsenal.

And for the women's Young Player of the Year there is a distinctly more northern feel to the shortlist, which consists of Man City quartet Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly, Georgia Stanway and Ellie Roebuck, United's Lauren James and Chelsea's Erin Cuthbert.

Alexis Sanchez wanted to leave Manchester United following his first training session after an agreement with Manchester City failed to come to fruition.

City were expected to sign Sanchez in January 2018 but he ended up joining their rivals United from Arsenal in a swap deal that sent Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the opposite direction.

The Chile international, who was reportedly being paid £390,000 per week, failed to find the form he displayed at Arsenal, where he had become one of the Premier League's leading attackers.

He scored just five goals in 45 appearances in all competitions before spending the 2019-20 season on loan at Inter, who signed him permanently last month.

Injuries also limited Sanchez's impact at United, but he confirmed City had been his first choice and he did not feel comfortable with the Red Devils from the start.

"I want to tell you about my period at United, about many things that have been said which made me look bad," Sanchez said in a video posted on his official Instagram account.

"Before going there, I had an agreement with Manchester City but it didn't work out and I got the chance to join Manchester United. It was something nice for me, as a kid I liked the club a lot. Eventually I signed but I didn't ask for information on what was happening inside the club

"Sometimes there are things that you don't realise until you get there, and I remember the first training session I had, I realised a lot of things.

"After the session I got home and I said to my family and my agent, 'Can you not rip up the contract to go back to Arsenal?' They laughed, I told them 'There's something that doesn't sit right, it doesn't seem good.'

"But I already signed, I was already there. After the first few months I carried on having the same feeling, we weren't united as a team in that moment."

Sanchez felt he was often unfairly targeted as the team struggled in his first full season with team, which saw United slip from a runners-up finish in 2017-18 to sixth place.

"I'm telling you my experience, the journalists at times would speak without knowing the facts and it hurt, they had no idea what was going on inside the club," he said.

"They said it was my fault, and this, and that, but sometimes a player depends on the environment, the family that is created around him, and I think that in that moment we weren't really a family.

"And that translated onto the pitch, and since there needed to be someone to blame, they blamed me."

Sanchez felt a pivotal moment in his United career came when he was left out of the matchday squad by Jose Mourinho for a trip to West Ham in September 2018, a game that ended in a 3-1 loss at London Stadium.

"I remember a game against West Ham, I wasn't picked and that never happened during my career," he added.

"That changed a lot, it really bothered me and that day I told myself that it couldn't be possible to go from one of the best players in the Premier League to that in the space of five months.

"That bothered me a little, I got home and I was very sad for what happened, the next day I put in a double training session - as I've always been, I demand the best from myself in my job, I love what I do, I like football a lot."

Lionel Messi could stay at Barcelona after all.

Messi, 33, sensationally asked to leave the LaLiga giants after a tumultuous 2019-20 season, which ended without a trophy.

But the saga goes on – and it may conclude with Messi remaining at the club.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI CONSIDERING BARCELONA STAY

Messi is considering staying at Barcelona until the end of the upcoming season, according to Sport.

The Argentina star, who is contracted through until the end of June 2021, would begin negotiating with another club from January, the report says.

Messi has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester City, while Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus are also reportedly interested in the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

The latest news comes as Marca reports Europe's top clubs have a tacit agreement to avoid aggressive tactics when it comes to transfers.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea's spending spree looks one step closer to continuing. Sky Sports reports the Premier League giants have agreed a deal with Bayer Leverkusen for Kai Havertz, paying £71.4million (€80m) plus £17.9m (€20m) in add-ons. Havertz is set to join the likes of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva as arrivals at Stamford Bridge.

- Manchester United are not giving up on Jadon Sancho. The Daily Mail reports United are sorting out the salary and fees of intermediaries before making an official bid to Borussia Dortmund for Sancho. The Bundesliga club reportedly want £108m (€121m) for the England international.

- Barcelona are expecting to rebuild this close season. Cadena SER reports no offers have come in for Samuel Umtiti and the defender could be allowed to leave for free despite being contracted until 2023.

- Despite having a deal at Bayern Munich until next year, Javi Martinez could push for an exit. Goal reports the midfielder is keen to return to Athletic Bilbao, the club he left to join Bayern in 2012, and the Bundesliga side are prepared to negotiate a sale.

- Having struggled at West Ham, Felipe Anderson could be on the move. The Mirror reports the Brazilian has been offered to Arsenal on loan for £5m.

Phil Foden heaped praise on Jadon Sancho for the way the England star embraced the pressure of first-team football at such a young age with Borussia Dortmund.

Sancho left Manchester City for the Bundesliga in 2017, making his debut for Dortmund at the age of 17 following a move prompted in part by fears over a lack of opportunities at the Etihad Stadium.

Foden himself may have harboured similar worries and there has often been talk of a loan switch for the midfielder, but he is steadily asserting himself under Pep Guardiola, who has always talked of the youngster in glowing terms.

Although Foden appears firmly in his manager's plans, he was impressed by Sancho's bold decision to move overseas, with the pair now reunited in Gareth Southgate's England squad.

"I definitely watched Jadon when he went to Dortmund," said the 20-year-old, who will hope to make his senior international bow against Iceland or Denmark in the Nations League.

"There's not many young players that could've played at that level. I was very impressed.

"It seems every year younger players are playing more big games. It's good to see young players getting debuts.

"It just shows the academies have got great coaches, teaching them the right things and they're getting opportunities in the first team."

Foden underlined some of the challenges he has faced in his development, with his diminutive stature creating some difficulties, although he will have seen first-hand how the likes of David Silva and Bernardo Silva make light of that supposed disadvantage.

"When I was a younger age at the academy, I was a lot smaller," he explained. "I had to use my brain more.

"Eventually I started growing, made the step up to the first team. I had to adapt quickly. I've definitely tried to get in the gym much more now, get bigger, stronger. Adapting to the physical side was the most challenging thing.

"As I trained, I started to get better, moving the ball quicker, learning quicker.

"I'm still young. If I feel as though a player is reading me, I feel as though I'm very good at adapting my game style.

"It's nothing that I'll fear. I'll look forward to the challenge."

Lionel Messi is considering the possibility of seeing out the final year of his Barcelona contract rather than forcing a move immediately, his father has confirmed.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has informed the Blaugrana of his desire to leave Camp Nou after a disappointing season in 2019-20.

Barca failed to win a single trophy and were humiliated in the Champions League with an 8-2 quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich.

Messi has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave for free at the end of each season, yet he did not immediately take up the option, leading Barca to believe they would be owed €700million for a transfer.

Initial talk of a negotiated move to Manchester City has given way to suggestions the Premier League club could only afford a free transfer, which is said to be unlikely.

And with Jorge Messi, the player's father, in Barcelona to discuss the next step, he appears to have accepted Messi might have to remain at the club before leaving on a free in 2021.

Asked if that was a possibility, Jorge told Deportes Cuatro: "Yes."

Of the talks with under-fire Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, he added: "[They have been] very good."

Messi has yet to comment publicly on his intention to leave Barca but did not show for pre-season coronavirus testing and so has not trained since last month's shock Champions League exit.

Troyes have become the 10th club purchased by the City Football Group (CFG).

CFG owns Manchester City and is backed by the Abu Dhabi United Group, which was formed to buy the Premier League outfit in 2008.

The group also has stakes in New York City, Melbourne City, Yokohama F Marinos, Montevideo City Torque, Girona, Sichuan Jianiu, Mumbai City and Lommel SK.

Its latest acquisition is Troyes, who finished fourth in Ligue 2 last season.

The French outfit have bounced between the top two tiers in recent seasons, most recently suffering relegation in 2018, having played in the UEFA Cup - now the Europa League - after the turn of the century.

Troyes were reportedly the subject of interest from Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis earlier this year.

CFG managing director Ferran Soriano said: "We have been interested in French football for some time and have long admired ESTAC.

"We are therefore delighted to have completed the acquisition of our 10th club and to have a permanent presence in France.

"This is an important milestone for City Football Group, which proves that our model continues to adapt and develop in a relatively short period of time."

Wantaway Barcelona forward Lionel Messi will "play wherever he wants" and is good enough to be the best player in any division he chooses, according to Mauricio Pochettino.

Messi informed Barca of his desire to leave the club last week and reportedly believes he can move on a free transfer after activating a clause that allows him to terminate his contract.

However, Barca and LaLiga are of the opinion the €700million release clause in his deal is still intact and will have to be met in full or a transfer fee be agreed with any potential suitor for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to move on.

Messi's father and agent Jorge met with president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Wednesday to discuss a potential departure, with Manchester City the favourites to sign him.

And Pochettino, who was previously linked with the role of Barca head coach, expects his countryman to have the final say on his future.

"Anything can happen. Messi will play wherever he wants - in Spain or the Premier League. He's ready to be the best in any league," Pochettino told Argentine outlet Ole.

Pochettino has been out of work since leaving Tottenham in November and was touted as a contender to take over at Camp Nou following Quique Setien's departure last month.

The former Espanyol player and coach recently backtracked on comments made in 2018 when stating he "would prefer to work on a farm" than manage Barca.

However, Pochettino concedes the damage has been done and he is unlikely to ever be considered for one of world football's top jobs.

"I think the statements made the fans reluctant to accept me, but at no time did I receive an offer to manage Barca," he said.

"I was wrong in the way I conveyed that it would be impossible in the future to manage Barcelona. I exaggerated by not leaving an iota of doubt.

"It's clear that everyone who knows me knows that, from my past and a lot of things, it would be difficult to relate my name to the club. There are things that cannot be put together."

It seems little progress was made between Barcelona and Lionel Messi.

Messi, 33, has sensationally requested to leave the LaLiga giants, but the transfer saga looks set to drag on.

A meeting between the parties was tipped to provide some clarity, but it seems little has changed.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI, BARCELONA YET TO REACH AGREEMENT

Messi and Barcelona did not reach an agreement on Wednesday, according to widespread reports in Spain.

AS reports Messi is insisting he leaves, while Barca are refusing to negotiate.

Messi has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester City, while Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus have also been credited with an interest.

According to The Telegraph, Messi could leave for as little as €100million.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Barcelona and Luis Suarez has also been linked with a move away from Camp Nou. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the forward has almost agreed terms with Juventus, who may pay Barcelona a small fee for the 33-year-old. Suarez is out of contract next year.

- Liverpool are seemingly still trying to sign Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara. RMC Sport reports Liverpool is Thiago's only choice despite links to Manchester United.

- Inter Miami could be set for a huge signing. ESPN reports Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain is very close to agreeing to personal terms with the MLS club.

- After a fine loan spell at Roma, Chris Smalling is wanted by the Serie A club. Gianluca Di Marzio reports there is confidence from Roma they can get a permanent deal done for the Manchester United defender, who could sign a three-year deal.

- Roma and Manchester United may yet be involved in another deal. CalcioMercato reports Roma are looking at United midfielder Fred on a loan deal with an obligation to buy for €20m (£17.8m) to €25m (£22.2m).

- Emiliano Martinez continues to be linked with a move from Arsenal. The Telegraph reports Villarreal, who have former Arsenal boss Unai Emery in charge, are considering the goalkeeper if he is told he will not be Arsenal's first choice this season.

Phil Foden is grateful for Pep Guardiola's patient approach with him at Manchester City as he prepares to potentially make his senior England bow.

Foden, 20, has been highly rated in both the England and City setups for years, but particularly since 2017 when he was awarded the Golden Ball at the Under-17 World Cup, which the Three Lions won.

He was given his City debut the same year and has steadily seen more first-team football, playing 10 games across all competitions in 2017-18, 26 the following campaign and then 38 in 2019-20.

The majority of those appearances have been as a substitute and Guardiola has, on occasion, fielded criticism for perhaps seeming cautious about playing Foden, particularly after seeing Jadon Sancho leave for Borussia Dortmund due to fears over a lack of first-team opportunities.

But the coming season looks set to see Foden take another step forward in his development as he tries to fill the void left by David Silva, and while some fans might have wanted him to break into the starting XI regularly a bit sooner, the midfielder believes Guardiola has got it right.

"I played in some massive games this year," Foden told reporters after earning his maiden call-up to Gareth Southgate's senior England team.

"I've played cup finals and big Champions League games. They're the games everyone wants to play in.

"Sometimes it's difficult for a young player in these games. [Guardiola's] been patient with me and played me at the right times, and now I'm learning a lot and I feel ready to go.

"I'm only 20 years old. A lot of people have been pushing it [an England call-up]. I haven't played a lot of games at Manchester City but recently been playing more and doing well, so I had to work hard for the opportunity.

"He [Guardiola] just wants to see a good attitude and see you training well. I go to train every day at 100 per cent and that's where you can't go wrong really – come off the field knowing you've given everything to get in the team.

"That's what I try and do. If I get in the team, I know I've earned it. That's how I work and I think that's what he likes about me."

His call-up could result in Foden playing alongside his former youth team colleague Sancho, a sight many City fans will rue not being able to enjoy on a regular basis at club level.

With Foden, Sancho and Mason Greenwood, who is also in the squad for the first time, England have three of world football's most promising youngsters at their disposal, and the City midfielder is relishing being alongside them.

"I first spoke to Mason in the Under-21s when he first came, so we've been close friends ever since," he continued.

"I'm very happy for him to get the call-up, it shows Gareth isn't scared to throw him in, and he's only 18.

"Everyone's got so much quality and it would be nice to play with Jadon again as I used to play with him in the youth teams, so it'll be nice to play with him again."

Foden made it clear that he sees Silva's City departure as an opportunity, yet he respectfully reflected on the club icon's talents and feels a better player for working with him.

"I'm hoping so," he said when asked if he could be the one to fill Silva's boots. "But there's a lot of midfielders and a lot of quality.

"[Guardiola's] not just going to give me that position. Everyone needs to play and train well. It depends on me, really. If I'm playing well enough I'll get the shirt, so it's down to me."

On what made Silva so special, Foden added: "It's what he sees, he sees the game so differently to other players.

"How he moves into space in tight areas, how he receives the ball and never loses it. All these things. I've learned so much from him."

England face Iceland and Denmark in their upcoming Nations League games on Saturday and Tuesday.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis confirmed Kalidou Koulibaly and Arkadiusz Milik would leave if the right offers came in.

Koulibaly has been linked with a move to Manchester City, while Roma are reportedly the frontrunners to sign Milik.

Speaking on Wednesday, De Laurentiis said the duo would depart Napoli for the right price.

"Koulibaly and Milik are both leaving, market permitting," he told Canale 21.

"So, if the market allows these two talented players to leave, we will know how to replace them.

"Otherwise, we will talk about them next year."

Koulibaly, 29, has developed into one of Europe's leading centre-backs since arriving at Napoli from Genk in 2014.

The Senegal international is contracted until 2023, but has been linked with a £57.7million (€65m) move to City.

Milik, meanwhile, has spent four seasons at Napoli and netted 14 goals in 35 games in all competitions in 2019-20.

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