Lionel Messi has suggested the Barcelona board need to back new manager Ronald Koeman in the transfer market if they want to have a real go at the Champions League this season, insisting the players have not had sufficient “support” in recent campaigns. The Argentine announced on Friday that he plans to stay at Barca for the final year of his contract rather than take the club to court in a fiery battle over the legality of the release clause in his deal.

Messi had believed he could quit the Nou Camp on a free thanks to a recission clause but Barca, backed by La Liga, argued that it has expired and that any club would have to pay £623million (€700m) to activate his release clause and sign him.

As such, the Argentine declared in a world exclusive interview with Goal on Friday that he will remain with the Catalan heavyweights for at least the final 12 months of his deal.

Yet voicing his grievances with Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, the 33-year-old has appeared to hint that Barca’s squad need additional help if they are to improve in Europe.

Barca have suffered humiliating knockout stage exits over the past three seasons, each more embarrassing than the last.

The La Liga giants were beaten 3-0 in the quarter-finals by Roma in 2017-19 to exit the competition despite a 4-1 first-leg win and threw another three-goal lead away the following season, losing 4-0 away at Liverpool in their semi-final second leg after winning 3-0 at home in the first meeting.

Last month, they suffered more quarter-final ignominy as they were hammered 8-2 by eventual champions Bayern Munich.

Barca’s poor performances on the continent in recent years helped convined Messi that he wanted to move on and while he will stay at Barca for another year, the club are under pressure to deliver to avoid losing their best ever player for nothing in 2021.

The player’s contract expires then and they will be powerless to losing him unless they can get him to sign a new contract.

With club legend Koeman now in charge at Barca after leaving his post as Netherlands national manager, Messi has suggested that the Dutchman must be backed in the current window, which closes on October 5.

Koeman is keen to link up with compatriot Gini Wijnaldum, who scored twice in Liverpool’s unforgettable 4-0 win over Barca, who sees his Anfield contract expire in a year’s time.

Liverpool are not currently in talks with Wijnaldum, 29, over an extension, and could sell this summer if the Spanish outfit make a fair offer with Bayern playmaker Thiago Alcantara in Jurgen Klopp’s sights as a potential replacement.

Messi told Goal: “I said it at the time that we were not given the support to win the Champions League.

“Actually, now I don’t know what will happen. There is a new coach and new ideas. 

“That’s good, but then we have to see how the team responds and whether or not it will give us to compete at the top level.

“What I can say is that I’m staying and I’m going to give my best for Barcelona.” 

Further putting the underfire Bartomeu under the microscope while discussing his own future, Messi continued: “I told the club, including the president, that I wanted to go. I’ve been telling him that all year. I believed it was time to step aside.

“I believed that the club needed more young players, new players and I thought my time in Barcelona was over. I felt very sorry because I always said that I wanted to finish my career here.

“It was a very difficult year, I suffered a lot in training, in games and in the dressing room. Everything became very difficult for me and there came a time when I considered looking for new ambitions.

“It did not come because of the Champions League result against Bayern, no – I had been thinking about the decision for a long time.

“I told the president and, well, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not keep his word.

“Throughout the year I had been telling the president that I wanted to leave, that the time had come to seek new goals and new directions in my career. He told me all the time: ‘We’ll talk, not now, this and that’, but nothing. The president did not give me a clue at what he was really saying.

“Sending the burofax was making it official that I wanted to go and that I was free and the optional year – I was not going to use it and I wanted to go.

“It was not to make a mess, or to go against the club, but the way to make it official because my decision had been made.”

He added: “If I don’t send the burofax, it’s like nothing happens, I have the optional year I had to have continued all year.

“What they say is that I did not say it before June 10 – but I repeat, we were in the middle of all the competitions and it was not the moment.

“But apart from that, 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.”

Box-to-box midfielder Wijnaldum, meanwhile, asked about his uncertain future this week while on international duty with the Netherlands said: “It’s a rumour, I have nothing to say about it.”

He added of Koeman after he left his Holland post: “Of course it is a shame that he left, but we are also very happy for him.  It can be compared to when you are in such a situation as a player. But we have to move on now.”



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