The forward spoke to SPORT from his Paris home on Wednesday to explain what happened
Lionel Messi spoke exclusively to SPORT and Mundo Deportivo in Paris on Wednesday about his decision not to return to Barcelona this summer.
We've also come here to talk about Barça. Have you missed them?
Yes, obviously I did, I missed them. And even more so at the beginning, when the first year here was so difficult for me. After my departure, after how everything went, obviously, I followed them, I watched the games and I always, always held on to the memories and to be able to be there.
You say you've been following the games. I suppose you were as happy as any other Culé when they won the league?
Yes, of course. I followed them all year and I wanted Barça to win the league, like all Barcelona fans. And even the first year as well, I spoek to Xavi quite a lot after some games. I followed them closely.
And regarding the possibility of coming back, have you made any decision?
Yes, the truth is yes. I really wanted to come back, I was really looking forward to it. But, on the other hand, after having lived through what I lived through, after the exit I had... I didn't want to go through the same situation again and have to wait to see what was going to happen. I didn't want to leave my future in the hands of others. Somehow, I wanted to make my own decision for myself, for my family. Even though I heard that they said that the league had accepted everything and that everything was OK for me to come back... there were still a lot of other things missing. I heard that they had to sell players or lower the salaries of players and the truth is that I didn't want to go through that, nor be responsible or have anything to do with all that.
During my career at Barcelona, I was accused of a lot of things that were not true and I was a bit tired of it. I didn't want to go through all that again. And well, when I had to leave, they also said that Laliga had accepted everything, but in the end it couldn't be done. I was afraid that the same thing would happen again and I would have to rush [a decision] like I did then: I had to come here to Paris, to stay in a hotel for a long time with my family, with my children going to school and still being in the hotel. I wanted to make my own decision. That's why I didn't come back from Barça.
Going against your heart.
I would have loved to come back. I'm also at a point where I want to get out of the spotlight a bit, to think more about my family. As I said, I just had two years in which things were not great for the family and I didn't enjoy it. That month was spectacular for me when we won the World Cup, but apart from that, it has been a difficult time for me and I want to rediscover my enjoyment, to enjoy my family, my children, the moment.... That's why Barcelona didn't happen.
Of all these reasons, what is the one that has weighed most heavily in your decision?
Making my own decision and not being forced to wait again, with the risk that the same thing could happen as happened two years ago. As I said, I also wanted, after having achieved everything and the World Cup that I wanted so much, to look for something else and to have some peace of mind.
Your family plays an important role in your decisions and there are promises to be kept with your children. How do you deal with that?
The truth is that my family was very, very excited about everything they heard, but at the same time we had no illusions because the reality was that we still didn't know what could happen. But, obviously, I was very keen to give back. We never, ever wanted to go [to Paris]. It was very, very, very difficult, but the family supports me and it is a collective decision, not only mine. They are also happy but also sad to leave, because while it was hard for them at the beginning, now they are more adapted to Paris. They have their friends at school and it hurts them, too, to leave all that, but they are grown up now, especially Tiago who understands the situation. He is happy about what is to come.