Sunday. 19.05.2024

Lionel Messi has said he was never asked to play for free at Barcelona before the cash-strapped club let him go in summer after 21 years.

Messi said in an interview with Monday's edition of Spanish paper Sport no such approach was made, after club president Joan Laporta recently suggested he would have welcomed such a gesture from the Argentine star player.

"No one asked me to play for free at Barca," Messi said, adding "Laporta's words hurt me" because they cast doubts over his integrity.

Messi was ready to sign a new contract in Barcelona with a reduced salary but, faced with debts of more than 1 billion euros (1.17 billion dollars), Barca said in August they could no longer afford him. Messi has since joined Paris Saint-Germain.

"I did everything I could to stay. I was asked to reduce my salary by 50%, and I did that without any problems. We were ready to help the club even more. It was my wish and that of my family to stay in Barcelona," Messi said.

'Happy' in Paris

Messi added he and the family have by now settled in in Paris and are "happy" there but that they would return to Barcelona one day.

He left it open whether he would return as a player but said he would like to be sports director one day at the club he joined at age 13.

Messi also expressed confidence that Barca have a bright future despite the current problems on and off the pitch.

"The team is great and plays well. The club will always exist because it is one of the best in the world," Messi said.

Messi: 'no one asked me to play for free at Barca'