Lionel Messi delivered a brutal attack on Barcelona's board after announcing he will stay at the Nou Camp this season to avoid taking the club to court.
The 33-year-old angrily accused president Josep Bartomeu of breaking a promise to him about being allowed to leave this summer and says his decision to quit was made during the season after the decline of the Spanish club over a period of years.
Manchester City will be among those closely looking at his situation in 2020/21 and will be able to negotiate a pre-contract in four months' time when the world's greatest player is within six months of his contract expiring.
Messi believed he could inform the club he was leaving on a free transfer during a post-season window, while Barca said they needed his request by June 10, even though football was still being played due to the season being delayed for the coronavirus pandemic.
Barcelona, backed by La Liga, insisted Messi's £625million buyout clause was valid and the bitter dispute could have ended in court until the Argentina international declared he would see out his contract.
"I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not," Messi told Goal.com. "Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for La Liga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season.
"And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club. Now I am going to continue in the club because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700million (NZ1.2b) clause, and that this is impossible.
"There was another way and it was to go to trial. I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, which gave me everything since I arrived. It is the club of my life, I have made my life here. Barca gave me everything and I gave it everything. I know that it never crossed my mind to take Barca to court."
City have always felt they would have a chance of landing Messi if he was available and will have to now wait nine months before signing him.
They remained silent on Messi's situation since he handed in his request to leave and followed that up by refusing to be tested for Covid-19 ahead of a return to pre-season training, effectively going on strike.
Pep Guardiola, who won the Champions League with Messi before their decline, has been targeting a centre-back ahead of the new season and there was no sense of putting business on hold when the biggest transfer story in world football emerged last week.
Bartomeu, who faces an election in March when he could lose his position, has overseen an era of decline since winning the Champions League in 2015. Messi's decision was made over a period of years, rather than a knee-jerk reaction after the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich last month.
"The truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by," Messi said.
"The president always told me 'when the season is over, you decide if you stay or leave', he never set a date, and well, it was simply to make it official that I wouldn't continue, but not to start a fight because I didn't want to fight against the club."
Messi revealed that he has reservations over Barca's success under new coach Ronaldo Koeman but vowed to treat this season like any other of his glittering career. He revealed he had opportunities to leave the club previously and the moment he finally decided on moving his family broke down in tears.
"Every year I could have left and earned more money than at Barcelona. I always said that this was my home and it was what I felt and feel," he said. "To decide there was somewhere better than here was difficult. I felt that I needed a change and new goals, new things".
- Daily Telegraph UK