With the asking price for Memphis Depay reportedly set, Barcelona also apparently want Thiago Alcantara back.

Ronald Koeman is preparing a rebuild at Camp Nou after a tumultuous 2019-20 season in which Barca finished trophy-less.

The former Netherlands coach wants Depay, while an ex-Barcelona midfielder may also make a return.

 

TOP STORY – LYON WANT €30M FOR DEPAY

Lyon want €30million from Barcelona for Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo.

After the Netherlands' Nations League loss to Italy, Depay said he was aware of interest in him, but remained unsure about his future.

Meanwhile, the cover of Mundo Deportivo also says Barcelona want to negotiate with Manchester City for defender Eric Garcia.

ROUND-UP

- Widely expected to leave Bayern Munich, Thiago has been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool. However, Sport Bild reports Barca are interested in bringing the midfielder back to Camp Nou, seven years after he left for Bayern. 

- Chelsea's spending spree seems set to continue. Goal and The Athletic report the Premier League club are pushing to seal a deal for Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. Chelsea have been linked with numerous goalkeepers amid pressure on Kepa Arrizabalaga.

- Manchester United's interest in Alex Telles has reportedly intensified. A Bola says the Porto left-back's representatives are in Manchester for talks over a possible €30m (£26.9m) move, while Sevilla are also reportedly interested.

- Aleksandar Kolarov is seemingly close to an Inter switch. Sky Sport Italia reports the Serbian has landed in Milan for a medical ahead of joining from Roma.

- With Kai Havertz having left for Chelsea, Bayer Leverkusen are likely to be looking for a replacement. Le 10 Sport claims the Bundesliga club are interested in Paris Saint-Germain attacker Julian Draxler.

- Aston Villa are looking to strengthen. The Sun says they want Liverpool forward Rhian Brewster in a £20m move, while The Athletic understands they have made a second bid for Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Lyon star Memphis Depay is aware of interest in his services amid links to Barcelona, but the attacker is unsure if he will make a move.

Depay is being targeted by Barca, where former Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman has taken over, and Roma.

The 26-year-old knows there is interest in him, but said it remained to be seen whether he would move.

"We just have to see what will happen. I'm going to report to the club [Lyon] tomorrow [Tuesday]," Depay told NOS after the Netherlands' 1-0 loss to Italy in the Nations League.

"Then we'll see. I have not heard much further from my agent.

"I know there is interest, but I don't have much else to say about it because I don't know much about it."

Depay scored 15 goals in 22 games for Lyon last season despite suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in December.

He started the 2020-21 Ligue 1 season with a hat-trick against Dijon last month.

Lionel Messi took part in Barcelona training on Monday, his first session since his attempt to leave the club failed.

The Argentina star confirmed last Friday that he will be staying at Camp Nou after being unable to engineer a move away.

Messi believed he could use a clause in his contract to leave for free, but Barca and LaLiga disputed that claim and insisted his deal could only be terminated should his €700million release clause be paid.

The 33-year-old accused Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu of going back on his promise to allow him to leave if he wished, but he stressed he would be fully committed to the club for 2020-21.

Messi, who was pictured modelling Barca's new third kit early on Monday, was later seen arriving at the club's training ground.

According to Marca, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner was the first player seen in Sant Joan Despi, having arrived an hour and a half before training was due to start.

Barca later tweeted a picture of Messi taking part in a training session under new coach Ronald Koeman for the first time.

The Catalan giants are due to begin their new LaLiga campaign against Villarreal later this month.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas insists his part in the battle to get Lionel Messi to stay at Barcelona was not personal and only about ensuring players respect contracts.

Messi last week announced he would remain at Camp Nou against his wishes to avoid a legal battle with the club.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner had previously stated his intention to Barca on a free transfer by exercising a clause in his contract at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Barca and LaLiga argued that option expired in June and any club wanting to acquire Messi's services must pay his €700million release clause or negotiate a fee.

Messi's representatives claimed the clause to leave for free was still active due to the season being extended by the coronavirus pandemic.

The impasse forced a U-turn from Messi but Tebas is adamant he would have taken the same stance with any player in the league.

"It wasn't my battle with Messi. I would have done the same if it had been Pepito Perez or any other player in our league," Tebas told Corriere della Sera.

"As a league we must defend the rules and promote justice: they must respect the contracts. Always. Whether you're called Messi or Pepito Perez.

"I personally don't see it as a battle with Messi and his team. I've got a special appreciation for Leo, I love him and the history he's created in our football over the past 20 years.

"How could I be at war with him? I repeat, my intervention was only so that contracts were respected. But it's clear that with Leo being involved, the media turned it into a giant story.

"Although his lawyers say the opposite, the contract is clear. In the end, I'm happy Messi will avoid a legal battle. He'll continue playing for the club of his dreams. I hope their relationship goes back to normal."

Messi's contract expires at the end of next season and asked about the possibility of him leaving following the 2020-21 campaign, Tebas replied: "That will be his decision. The contract allows that to happen."

Serie A side Inter have been heavily linked with a move for Messi. On the possibility of a switch to the Italian top flight, Tebas added: "Italy is a great country and Serie A has a lot of room for growth, although Spain and LaLiga is a big pull. You can never say never."

Lionel Messi was filmed arriving at Barcelona's training complex after being used to promote the club's new third kit on social media as he prepares to get back to work.

The Argentina superstar on Friday confirmed he will remain at Camp Nou, having previously shocked the football world by telling Barca he wanted to leave.

Messi was of the belief that a clause in his contract allowed him to walk away for free but both Barca and LaLiga disputed that claim and said any suitor would have to meet a €700million release clause or negotiate a fee.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner consequently decided the financial demands made by the board meant a transfer was "impossible", but he gave a withering assessment of president Josep Maria Bartomeu in an exclusive interview with Goal Spain.

In the interview, Messi – who was heavily linked with a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City – accused Bartomeu of going back on his word that he would be free to leave at the end of the 2019-20 season if he desired.

But Messi is now scheduled to take part in his first training session with new head coach Ronald Koeman at 17:30 local time (15:30 GMT), having not shown up for coronavirus tests or the beginning of pre-season last week.

Video footage showed Messi arriving at Barca's Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper complex for the session.

Earlier on Monday, Barca also tweeted pictures of Messi in their new pink third strip for the 2020-21 season. 

Barcelona's chances of landing Inter star Lautaro Martinez could reportedly become clearer this week.

The LaLiga giants remain interested in the Argentina forward, who scored 21 goals for Inter in 2019-20.

Just whether they can get a deal done, however, may become known this week.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA'S CHANCES OF SIGNING MARTINEZ SET TO BECOME CLEARER

Martinez's agents will meet with the leaders of Inter this week to assess his situation, according to Sport.

The report says Barcelona and Inter are in regular contact, but there is a big difference between the clubs.

It says Barca want to pay a maximum of €65million plus a player, while Inter are demanding a minimum of €85m.

Goal reports Barcelona are preparing a final offer for Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are seeking a forward with Luis Suarez set to leave. Goal claims Barca and Juventus are negotiating a fee for the 33-year-old Uruguayan, who is said to have agreed to a three-year deal with the Serie A champions.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Marca reports Philippe Coutinho is set to spend 2020-21 at Barca. Coutinho spent 2019-20 on loan at Bayern Munich but the LaLiga club have ruled out another loan move, the report says.

- A player set for a Barcelona exit is Arturo Vidal. Sport Mediaset says Vidal is expected in Milan soon as he prepares to join Inter, where he has agreed a two-year deal with an option for a third.

- Real Madrid, meanwhile, look set to keep Gareth Bale. Mundo Deportivo reports Madrid have not received an offer for Bale, who is contracted until 2022 but has been linked with a move away.

- With Ronald Koeman having left to take over at Barcelona, the Netherlands are looking for a new head coach. Voetbal International reports the players want Henk ten Cate to be the Netherlands' next coach.

- Watford forward Gerard Deulofeu is reportedly wanted by numerous European clubs. The Telegraph reports Milan, Napoli and Sevilla want Deulofeu on loan with an option to buy.

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo admitted the Ligue 1 champions were tempted to sign Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, while he insisted Neymar and Kylian Mbappe must stay at the club.

Messi dropped a bombshell when he handed in a transfer request but the Barca captain and six-time Ballon d'Or champion will remain at Camp Nou for the 2020-21 season.

Manchester City were heavily linked with Messi, while PSG also emerged as a possible destination for the 33-year-old attacker.

"Today when you think about the financial situation it's complicated," Leonardo told Canal+ program Canal Football Club when asked if PSG were interested. 

"When we are told Messi wants to leave, we are tempted. You say to yourself, will it be f****** possible? They are players completely out of any discussion. 

"I don't know, David Beckham ended up at Paris Saint-Germain, Messi ending up in Paris? I don't know. 

"It's football, in the end, everyone's sitting at the table, everyone knows everything, and it's moving forward."

There has also been speculation regarding PSG's star duo Neymar and Mbappe following their memorable run to the Champions League final.

Neymar has often been linked with a return to Barca, while Real Madrid have made no secret of their admiration for Mbappe.

However, Leonardo said: "We want to continue with them. Everything is clear to everyone. We must continue with them.

"To have two players like that on the same team is huge. Messi and Ronaldo were each in their own club. We have the two best players in the world after Messi and Ronaldo."

Despite leading PSG to their first Champions League final, there has been uncertainty over Thomas Tuchel's future in Paris.

Former Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri has been linked with a move to PSG, but Leonardo said the French powerhouse plan to continue with Tuchel.

"He did something fantastic. It's the best season in the club's history. We have time to talk about that," he added.

"We share a lot of things, we talk about the transfer market all the time. There is always a conversation about signing a player. Tuchel always validates the choice of players.

"We have a 10-month contract. Honestly, when I arrived, I could keep him or not. We spoke very clearly. I never contacted Allegri. I know him. We hope to do better this year.

"Every club today needs to sell. We made a big investment in Mauro Icardi. We have to be creative. The departures of the players were planned.

"We finished playing in August and not in May. We have until October 5 to recruit. But we have to look at the exit side before then."

Barcelona target Memphis Depay is also the subject of interest from Roma, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has revealed.

Lyon captain Depay is into the final year of his contract with the Ligue 1 club and has been linked with a big move to Barca.

The former Manchester United forward previously worked with new Blaugrana coach Ronald Koeman with the Netherlands.

But Aulas warned a deal with Barca has not yet been done, encouraging Roma's rival interest.

He told Telefoot: "Memphis' contract is expiring. Koeman wants him at Barcelona, but there is also Roma in for the player."

Depay returned from a serious knee injury to feature in Lyon's run to the Champions League semi-finals, having earlier netted nine goals in only 13 Ligue 1 matches last term.

Last week he scored a hat-trick in Lyon's first Ligue 1 game of the season as Dijon were beaten 4-1.

The 26-year-old joined Lyon from United for €16million in 2017 and is now reportedly available for just €25m.

Sandro Tonali's move to Milan is almost complete but Brescia's president Massimo Cellino wanted him to join Roma.

Italy international Tonali has been one of the hottest properties in Italian football over the past few years, having broken into the Brescia team as a 17-year-old.

A technically gifted midfielder renowned for his dribbling and passing abilities, Tonali – now 20 – has long been seen as a future star of the Azzurri.

Brescia managed to keep hold of Tonali for the 2019-20 season after they were promoted to Serie A, but their relegation left them helpless to resist offers.

Cellino previously claimed Tonali ignored offers from Barcelona and Manchester United, while Inter had also tried to prise the talent away.

But Milan, whom he supported as a child, look set to win the race for Tonali – though Cellino would have preferred to sell him to Roma.

Speaking to Il Messaggero, Cellino said: "Sandro has supported Milan since he was a child.

"The negotiation with them made me doubly happy – I also respect a club that gives value to money.

"[Milan technical director, Paolo] Maldini has Milan DNA and has all the prerequisites for becoming a great manager.

"I would have seen Sandro more at Roma. It's a beautiful team, a hot city. [Roma vice-president, Mauro] Baldissoni told me some time ago that he was their dream, but now I don't know who is in charge of their transfers.

"I had an excellent relationship with [former president, Franco] Sensi and I know [former director of football, Walter] Sabatini very well.

"I feel very attached to Roma. For this reason, when I sold Cagliari, I had the dream of buying Roma and rehabilitating it, enhancing its potential through my work and my experience. It remained just a dream."

The deal for Tonali is rumoured to be an initial loan worth €10million, plus an option to buy set at €20m, and given Brescia's relegation, Cellino felt it was impossible to keep him any longer.

"It had never happened to me before, to discover a strong player like Tonali," he added. "I would have liked to keep him, but unfortunately the dream was shattered with the relegation and the uncertainty transmitted by the pandemic.

"I had to manage Brescia without refinancing the company. I hold the position of president as a profession, while my other millionaire colleagues do it as a hobby."

Could Antoine Griezmann leave Camp Nou now that Lionel Messi has committed to Barcelona for the 2020-21 season?

Griezmann endured a difficult first season at Barca following his arrival from Atletico Madrid.

Liverpool and Manchester United are among the teams who could tempt the Frenchman.

 

TOP STORY –  LIVERPOOL, UNITED CONSIDER GRIEZMANN

Liverpool and Manchester United are eyeing Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann, according to the Daily Mail.

Griezmann had reportedly been promised a leading role by new head coach Ronald Koeman had Lionel Messi left the club, but Barca's captain will remain at Camp Nou in 2020-21.

With Messi saying put, Premier League champions Liverpool, United and Arsenal are believed to be considering moves for Griezmann.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Guardian claims Manchester City are preparing a second bid for Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly. Pep Guardiola's City are hopeful they can find a compromise as United also reportedly eye the star defender.

- Sunday's La Gazzetta Sportiva is dominated by Barcelona pair Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal. Suarez is poised to join Serie A champions Juventus, while Vidal is set to move to Antonio Conte's Inter.

- While Suarez is reportedly close to swapping Barca for Juve, the Italian giants are considering alternatives if the deal falls through. AS Diario says Juve are weighing up Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata, while Roma's Edin Dzeko and former Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani have also been linked.

- According to Le10 Sport, Rennes are in discussions with Inter defender Diego Godin. The 34-year-old just finished his first season in Milan.

Milan remain one of the most active teams in the transfer market. Calciomercarto reports the Rossoneri have held talks with agent Fali Ramadani regarding Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic, while Real Madrid forward Luka Jovic is still of interest to the club.

- Norwegian journalist Fredrik A.N. Filtvedt says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had spoken to Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho many times and the England international wants to leave for Old Trafford.

Lionel Messi was left with no choice but to reverse his decision to quit Barcelona due to bad advice from his father and agent Jorge, according to former Real Madrid player Hugo Sanchez.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner sent shockwaves through the football world last week by informing Barca of his intention to leave.

However, LaLiga disputed Messi's claim that he could leave on a free transfer courtesy of a clause in his contract, meaning any potential suitor would have to negotiate with Barca or pay his €700million release clause.

Messi announced on Friday he will now remain at Camp Nou because the financial demands made by the Barca board for a transfer to happen rendered such a prospect "impossible".

And Mexico icon Sanchez, who has been critical of Messi during the saga, blamed the 33-year-old's failed exit strategy on his representatives.

"That untimely burofax only strengthened the image of the president of Barcelona and gave him time to weaken Messi's decision," he told ESPN.

"Messi has had no choice but to stay at Barcelona due to bad advice from his father and the law firm, because they could have saved that burofax. That has caused weakness to his image within the team.

"Coincidentally, Messi had the lawyers who had previously worked with Barcelona, but due to a conflict of interest, the Catalan club changed its strategy.

"If Messi and his father already had the decision to leave Barcelona, they should not have waited in time.

"But before the end of the term agreed in the contract, they had to tell the club that they wanted to leave at the end of the season and on a free, without paying any compensation. If they had it planned, it should have been done that way."

He added: "Messi's second problem was to send that burofax without certainty and guaranteeing that they had a team that would pay the €700m, which, due to the pandemic, no team in the world that can invest that amount."

Messi is now expected to re-evaluate his future at the end of the 2020-21 season with Inter, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City possible destinations should he finally leave the club he has represented since the age of 13.

"He has no choice but to drink several garlic and water teas in these next eleven months," Sanchez said.

"Messi likes to win titles and will need to look for another team where he can win championships and prove that he is the best player ever.

"The whole problem with Barcelona is going to distract him next season, in such a way that there will be doubts both about his behaviour and the fact that he is not the same young man who ran all over the pitch."

Lionel Messi's reluctant decision to remain at Barcelona does not sit easily with his former coach Luis Enrique.

Messi announced on Friday that he would stay at Camp Nou because the financial demands made by the Barca board for a transfer to happen rendered such a prospect "impossible".

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner accused president Josep Maria Bartomeu of going back on his word that Messi would be free to leave if he desired at the end of the 2019-20 season – although a clause in his contract underpinning this sentiment expired while a campaign extended by the coronavirus hiatus was still in progress.

Luis Enrique coached Messi for three seasons between 2014 and 2017, a period that took in Barca's treble-winning 2014-15 efforts.

The 33-year-old made clear his frustration at the club's failure to reach those heights since, certainly as far as the Champions League is concerned, but Luis Enrique would have liked a more cordial resolution.

"I don't know whether to pronounce on Messi... but I'm going to do it," he said at a news conference to preview Spain's Nations League contest with Ukraine.

"I think the clubs are above all people, players and presidents. Barcelona, ​​founded in 1899, is one of the best in the world. They have always won titles.

"It is evident that there has been a wonderful relationship. Leo has made Barca grow exponentially but I would have liked it if a much more friendly agreement had been reached.

"Sooner or later, Messi will stop playing at Barca. Barcelona will continue to win titles without Messi and Messi will continue to be a wonderful footballer."

Luis Enrique was widely reported to have clashed angrily with Messi midway through the 2014-15 season, before a sensational run of form inspired the MSN forward line – completed by Luis Suarez and Neymar – resulted in a stunning clean sweep of major trophies.

Despite working with such greats of the game and now taking charge of his national team, Luis Enrique insists it will not be in his nature to brag about the players he has coach when he retires from the game.

Indeed, it is not Messi or any of his current Spain squad who would top his list when it comes to the favourite players he has led from the dugout.

“I'm not a fetishist at all," Luis Enrique added. "I will say that I have trained a lot of players, better or worse, but that I have tried to make them better. 

"If I had to say one, I would say that I trained Nolito. I had a wonderful time. He left Second Division with me and he's a very funny guy."

As Luis Suarez seemingly nears a Barcelona exit, the LaLiga giants could be getting close to two additions.

Barca were given a huge boost on Friday as star Lionel Messi announced he would stay at the club for another season.

But there are still set to be moves at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA CLOSE TO DEPAY, WIJNALDUM DEALS

Barcelona are close to deals for Lyon star Memphis Depay and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, according to AD.

Depay and Wijnaldum have been reported to be targets for Barca, who are rebuilding under Ronald Koeman after a tumultuous 2019-20 season.

Goal reports Barcelona are confident of landing Wijnaldum, who is out of contract next year.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Barcelona rebuild is set to see several exits, however. BBC reports Suarez has agreed a deal with Serie A champions Juventus.

- With Messi staying at Barcelona, perhaps Manchester City will turn their focus elsewhere. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the Premier League giants are set to make a new offer – of at least £66.8million (€75m) – for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

- The other half of Manchester are enduring frustrations of their own. The Daily Star reports Manchester United are preparing to walk away from a deal for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho due to the Bundesliga club wanting £110m (€123.5m) for the forward.

- Arsenal could face competition for Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey. ESPN reports Paris Saint-Germain have joined the Premier League club in the race for Partey.

- While Zlatan Ibrahimovic is staying at Milan, the Serie A club may be looking for more firepower. Tuttosport reports they are again considering a move for Real Madrid forward Luka Jovic, who struggled in his first season in the Spanish capital.

- Also at Milan and Fabrizio Romano reports they are close to reaching an agreement with Chelsea for midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko. It would be a loan for €3m (£2.7m) with an option to buy for €30m (£26.7m).

Barcelona presidential candidate Victor Font and former president Joan Laporta have welcomed Lionel Messi's decision to stay at the LaLiga giants. 

The Argentina superstar sent shockwaves through world football 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.

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

That resulted in Messi confirming on Friday that he would remain at Camp Nou because the option of a free transfer was no longer available. 

Font, who is the only official candidate for the presidency as things stand, previously said the prospect of Messi leaving the club gave him "nightmares".

He took to social media to express his pleasure at Messi's decision, highlighting his comment about a lack of direction at the club alongside a picture of the talismanic forward with Xavi, his former team-mate, who Font is expected to install as head coach if he becomes president. 

In response to Messi saying "there has been no project for a long time and there is nothing, they are juggling and covering holes," Font said: "Only with a solid project, well worked out, will we overcome future challenges. We rebuild Barca. Yes to the future!"

Laporta, who previously held Barca's presidency between 2003 and 2010 and is expected to officially throw his hat into the ring for next year's election in the coming months, described the 33-year-old's decision as "wise".

He posted on Twitter: "Magnificent Leo, wise decision, very well explained. And now to continue fighting to win again and continue making history. Today Messi has given more joy to Barcelona fans!"

Barcelona's new president will be elected in March 2021.

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."

 

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