Lionel Messi has revealed that his decision to remain at Barcelona for another season was as a result of the club’s refusal to let him leave for free.
But in an explosive interview where the Barca captain lashed the club’s supposed betrayal, Messi also revealed the personal toll his desire to leave had on his family.
The Argentine superstar said his entire family was in tears and eldest son Thiago begged him to stay at the club where he has become a legend.
Messi has three sons with wife Antonella Roccuzzo: Thiago (seven) Mateo (four) and Ciro (two).
Here’s what he told Goal: “When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama.
“The whole family began crying, my children did not want to leave Barcelona, nor did they want to change schools.
“But I looked further afield and I want to compete at the highest level, win titles, compete in the Champions League. You can win or lose in it, because it is very difficult, but you have to compete.
“Mateo is still little and he doesn’t realise what it means to go somewhere else and make your life a few years elsewhere.
“Thiago, he is older. He heard something on TV and found out something and asked.
“I didn’t want him to know anything about being forced to leave, to have to live in a new school, or make new friends.
“He cried to me and said ‘let’s not go’. I repeat that it was hard, really. It was understandable. It happened to me. It is very difficult to make a decision.
“I love Barcelona and I’m not going to find a better place than here anywhere.
“Still, I have the right to decide. I was going to look for new goals and new challenges. And tomorrow I could go back, because here in Barcelona I have everything.
“My son, my family, they grew up here and are from here. There was nothing wrong with wanting to leave.
“I needed it, the club needed it and it was good for everyone.
“My wife, with all the pain of her soul, supported and accompanied me.”