Lionel Messi fires back at Barcelona chief Joan Laporta's 'play for free' claims

Lionel Messi of PSG during the Ligue 1 Uber Eats match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lille OSC (LOSC) at Parc des Princes stadium on October 29, 2021 in Paris, France.

Lionel Messi has said he was “hurt” after hearing Barcelona president Joan Laporta’s “inappropriate” suggestion that he could play for the club for free. 

The Argentinian addressed claims made by the Barca chief after he was forced to leave the club on a free transfer this summer due to their financial issues.

The 34-year-old had verbally agreed to sign a new contract with the Blaugrana over the summer after seeing his €70million-a-year deal expire in June 2021.

The LaLiga giants’ reported £1.1bn debt meant they had to cut costs to meet the league’s new salary cap protocols.

Messi had agreed to a 50 per-cent reduction on his previous deal but with a longer contract length of five years, spreading the cost to ease the financial burden.

However, the club struggled to move on other players who had taken up a large portion of their wage budget and it soon became evident that Messi would not be able to sign the deal.

After spending 21 years with the club he had joined as a teenager, the Argentinian signed a two-year contract with French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

The club have struggled without their talisman, who scored 30 goals in LaLiga last season, and are currently ninth in the table after sacking Ronald Koeman last week.

Lionel Messi of PSG during the Ligue 1 Uber Eats match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lille OSC (LOSC) at Parc des Princes stadium on October 29, 2021 in Paris, France.

Laporta had said he "hoped Messi would do a U-turn” and “play for free” in a radio interview with RAC1, but admitted he couldn’t ask a player of his stature to agree to such a gesture.

And Messi has now broken his silence in responding to those remarks, revealing he was left “hurt” by what Laporta said about his situation.

"The truth is, as I explained when I left, I did everything possible to stay," Messi told Catalan newspaper Sport.

"Never at any moment did they ask me to play for free. They asked me to reduce my salary by 50 per-cent and I did it without any problem.

“We were willing to help the club more. My desire and that of my family was to stay in Barcelona.

"No one asked me to play for free, but at the same time the president's words were inappropriate. It hurt because I don't think there was any need to say that.

"It's like taking the ball from you and not accepting the responsibility or taking charge of things. That makes people think and generates doubts that I don't think I deserve."

Messi is both Barca’s all-time record appearance maker and goalscorer with 672 goals in 778 games.

He also won eight LaLiga titles in his career as well as four Champions League trophies.

But the diminutive star has not enjoyed the most productive of starts with the Parisian outfit, failing to score in any of his five Ligue 1 matches.

Messi has scored three times in the Champions League for Mauricio Pochettino’s side but it seems he is still yet to fully settle in Paris.

When asked about whether he would consider a return to Camp Nou in the future, Messi suggested he would be keen on taking up a non-playing role when his contract expires with PSG in 2023.

"I don't know if I will [go back] when my contract expires in Paris," he added.

"But what is almost certain is that we're going to return to live in Barcelona and our life will be there.

"I have always said that I would love to help the club and be useful. I would love to be a sporting director at some point.

“I don't know if it will be in Barcelona or not. Or if it will be something else.

"If there's the chance, I would like to go back and contribute what I can because it's the club I love and I would love them to keep doing well, growing and being one of the best in the world.”

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