Messi staying at Barcelona: how did we get to this point?

Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona after a tumultuous transfer saga, but how did we get to this point?

Messi stays at Barcelona: How we got here

Lionel Messi's declaration that he will stay with Barcelona brought a remarkable transfer saga to an end on Friday.

Messi had intended to make use of a clause in his contract that would have enabled him to depart on a free transfer following the 2019-20 season.

The club disputed the validity of that clause after a season that ended later than planned amid the coronavirus pandemic, forcing Messi into a rethink.

And after much debate and rumour, Messi broke his silence to confirm he will remain at Camp Nou.

However, it is clear the Argentina superstar is far from happy with the way events have unfolded, and the timeline shows it has been quite the soap opera.

The key dates:

January 9 – Barcelona lose their Supercopa de Espana semi-final against Atletico Madrid 3-2 in Saudi Arabia.

January 13 – Despite the club being top of LaLiga, Barca confirm the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde. Quique Setien is appointed as head coach on a two-and-a-half-year contract, with a supposed return for Blaugrana legend Xavi failing to come to fruition.


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February 3 – In an interview with Catlan publication Sport, sporting director Eric Abidal says the club had begun considering Valverde's future after the 0-0 draw with Real Madrid on December 18. He adds that he and his colleagues identified "many players weren't satisfied nor working hard and there was also an internal communication problem".

February 4 – Messi hits back at Abidal, calling on him to name individuals rather than tar every player with the same brush. Writing on Instagram and highlighting a section of Abidal's quotes, Messi says: "I honestly don't like to do these things, but I think everyone has to be responsible for their tasks and take care of their decisions. The players [are responsible for] what happens on the pitch and we are also the first to recognise when we are not playing well. Those responsible for the area of sports management must also assume their responsibilities and especially for the decisions they make. Finally, I think that when talking about players we should give names, because if not we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true." Furthermore, ESPN report Messi has been playing through a thigh problem for a number of weeks after the club failed to sign attacking reinforcements and let Carles Perez and Abel Ruiz leave after Luis Suarez was ruled out for four months.

March 1 – Barca suffer a disappointing 2-0 loss to Real Madrid in the second Clasico of the season at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Zinedine Zidane's side going top of LaLiga as a result. However, the Catalan giants still managed to take a two-point advantage into the coronavirus lockdown.

March 30 – With a return of football yet to come onto the horizon, Messi confirms the players agreed to a 70 per cent pay cut. However, he makes it clear he is unhappy about pressure put on them. He posts on Instagram: "Much has been written and said about the Barcelona team in regards to the salaries of the players during this state of emergency. We want to clarify that our will has always been to take a cut in the salary we receive, because we fully understand that this is an exceptional situation and we are always the first ones to help the club when asked. Therefore, it does not surprise us that from within the club there were those who tried to put us under pressure to do something we always knew we would do. The agreement has been delayed for a few days because we were looking for a formula to help the club and its workers during these difficult times."

June 28 – During a 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo, Messi is accused of ignoring instructions from assistant coach Eder Sarabia during a drinks break. Setien denies the reports of a rift in the dressing room at a news conference the following day.

July 16 – Barca suffer a shock 2-1 home defeat against Osasuna, handing Madrid the league title. Messi makes his dissatisfaction known, saying that they must improve quickly or risk Champions League elimination in their last-16 second leg against Napoli. In a post-match interview, he told Movistar: "People are losing patience after defeats to Roma and Liverpool in recent years. We need a break and forget about this if we want to fight for the Champions League. We need to change a lot, otherwise we will also lose against Napoli. I already said before that playing like this we won't be able to fight for the Champions League and you see, we could not even fight for the league. We need to be self-critical."

August 14 – While they managed to get past Napoli despite an unconvincing performance, Barcelona are thrashed 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-final. It is their heaviest defeat in European competition and the most goals they have conceded in a single game since 1946.

August 17 – Setien is sacked by the club and presidential elections are brought forward to March as the club signals its intention to rebuild. It is reported that the majority of the first team are put for sale.

August 18 – Sporting director Abidal is relieved of his duties a day after informing Setien his time with the club was up.

August 19 – Barca icon Ronald Koeman is appointed head coach on a two-year contract. He said of Messi upon being presented to the media: "He is a Barcelona player. He has another year [on his contract]. I don't know if I have to convince him to stay."

August 20 – Messi meets Koeman to discuss his future with the club. RAC1 reports Messi told the new coach he is 'more outside the club than inside' and he had little faith in president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Koeman is alleged to have said to Messi: "The privileges in this squad are over, you had to do everything for the team. I'm going to be inflexible; you must only be thinking about the team."

August 22 – Tensions increase as Argentine publication Clarin claims Messi is furious that details of his meeting with Koeman were leaked to the media.

August 24 – Messi's close friend Suarez is one of four players - the others being Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti - supposedly told by Koeman they have no future at the club.

August 25 – Messi informs Barca he intends to leave the club, using a clause in his contract to exit on a free transfer, via burofax.

August 26 – Rumours abound over Messi's potential next destination, with Manchester City promptly emerging as favourites, a move that would signal a reunion with Pep Guardiola.

August 30 – LaLiga claims the €700million release clause in Messi's Barca contract remains valid and must be paid for his deal to be terminated unilaterally. On the same day, Messi fails to report for pre-season coronavirus testing.

September 2 – Presidential candidate Victor Font concedes his fear that it is too late to keep Lionel Messi at Barcelona.

September 3 – Messi's father Jorge reveals his son is considering the possibility of seeing out the final year of his Barcelona contract rather than forcing a move immediately.

September 4 – Messi confirms he will stay at Barcelona in an emotional interview, in which it is all too apparent his preference would have been to leave.