The saga is over. Lionel Messi will return to Barcelona next season.

The Argentine attacker announced his decision to return to the club on Friday, but then in a stunning interview, made clear that he was unhappy to be returning, and would only be doing so because he didn’t want to get bogged down in a massive legal battle with the club.

He also accused the team president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, of lying to him about his ability to leave the club.

It was a stunning admission from the normally reserved Messi, who has rarely spoken out against the club he’s played for since he was 13 years old.

Some quick context: Messi had a chance to opt out of his contract at the end of this past season. Following a humiliating exit from the Champions League, Messi did just that, choosing to opt out of his contract.

But here was where things got tricky. The season was supposed to end in June 2020 … and the language in the contract stated that Messi needed to tell the club by June 10.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic postponing a ton of games, the season did not actually end until August. When Messi tried to opt out in August, the club refused to let him go, saying he missed the deadline to opt out.

Messi tried to force his exit anyway, telling the club he was leaving. I thought at this moment that Barcelona would compromise, either letting him walk, or agreeing to sell him to another club for much less than the 700-million-Euro buyout clause that exists in his contract.

Barcelona did neither, instead threatening legal action and refusing to sell him for less than the full buyout clause.

In an interview with Goal, Messi talked about what happened:

“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,” he said.

“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 €700 million (£624m/$823m) clause, and that this is impossible.”

Messi also said that he had another option — go to court. But he chose the adult route here.

“There was another way and it was to go to trial,” he added. “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.”

So now Messi will return to Barcelona, feeling lied to, and forced to play for a club that was ready to take him to court. Let’s see how this works out.

Read more of the interview over at Goal.

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