A tearful Lionel Messi confirmed on Sunday he was leaving Barcelona after the club said it could no longer afford to pay the Argentine’s high wages, adding he was in negotiations with French club Paris Saint-Germain over a possible move.
French newspaper L’Equipe reported on Sunday that the Argentine will travel to the French capital either Sunday or Monday to undertake a medical and finalise his deal with the Qatar Sports Investment-owned club.
While Messi did not confirm he would definitely join the Parisians, he said his plans were to carry on playing as long as possible and suggested his next move would be to a European rival of Barcelona.
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Lionel Messi could not hold back the tears as he addressed his Barcelona departure on Sunday
Messi looked devastated as he spoke to the media and his team-mates at the Nou Camp
‘As long as I go on being competitive and as long as my body responds (I’ll carry on playing),’ he told a news conference.
‘As long as I can, I will carry on competing.’
He added: ‘I tried to behave with humility and respect and I hope that is what remains of me when I leave the club.’
Hundreds of fans, many wearing his No 10 jersey, crowded outside Barca’s Nou Camp stadium to bid farewell to the player they call the Messiah.
The 34-year-old, who has been at the club for 21 years, becoming its all-time goalscorer with 682 strikes, broke down in tears before giving a speech and was greeted by a lengthy standing ovation from the media, current and former team mates and coaches in attendance.
The Argentine said he did everything he could to stay but was ultimately unsuccessful
Messi struggled to get his words out as he came to terms with the fact he was leaving the club
Messi said that he believed he would be staying at the club, with a five-year deal agreed on a 50 per cent pay-cut, only for a surprise U-turn to happen late last week.
‘Honestly, when the elections happened (in March), I spoke with (club president Joan) Laporta, we had dinner and after that I was convinced I would be staying,’ he said.
‘My contract was never the issue… What I know is that I did everything I could. The club say it could not happen because of LaLiga.
‘I can guarantee you that I did everything I could to stay. Last year I didn’t want to and I said that, but this year it was different.’
All 35 trophies he won during his time at the club were laid out for what the club described would be a private photo session after the news conference.
Messi’s team-mates looked dejected as they watched their star man bid his farewell on Sunday
He also said: ‘This year, my family and I were convinced we were going to stay at home, that’s what we all wanted more than anything.
‘We’d always made this our own, we were at home. We thought we would be staying here in Barcelona. But today, we have to say goodbye to all of this.’
The 34-year-old, who has been heavily linked with a move to PSG where he would join up with former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, had been set to remain at the Nou Camp but is now a free agent.
He added: ‘I did everything possible and the club, Laporta, they couldn’t do it because of LaLiga.
Messi is consoled by Jordi Alba and Antoine Griezmann following Sunday’s press conference
‘I’ve heard things said about me, that I didn’t want to continue, but on my life, we did everything we could because I wanted to stay.
‘Last year, I didn’t want to stay and I said it; this year, I wanted to stay and we couldn’t.’
PSG appears the most likely next destination for Messi and while he confirmed that joining the French giants was a possibility, he insisted nothing was yet agreed.
He said: ‘That’s honestly one possibility, to reach those heights, but I’ve got nothing confirmed with anybody.
‘When the press release was published, I had a lot of calls and a lot of clubs were interested.
‘At the moment, I’ve not got anything closed, but we are talking about a lot of things.’
Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman (left) greets Messi after watching him say his farewells
Messi confirmed he had agreed to take a 50 per cent wage cut during negotiations over a new deal.
He said: ‘I offered to reduce my salary by 50 per cent and they didn’t ask me for anything else.
‘The news that I’d asked for 30 per cent more is a lie.
‘We did everything we could and it wasn’t possible.’
Scroll down to see how it all unfolded with Sportsmail’s live runner…