Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona—but as a hostage

Lionel Messi finally spoke out on the biggest transfer saga of the summer, and while he will not be joining Manchester City, he made it very clear that Barcelona have forced him to stay against his will.

The Lionel Messi to Manchester City saga finally came to an end as the player publicly announced he would stay at Barcelona, albeit not by choice. Following his father’s meeting with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, he reiterated his stance that he believed Messi could leave on a free transfer to Manchester City, but La Liga and the club held firm, coaxing an announcement from Messi hours later.

It’s very disappointing considering everything surrounding the player’s desire to leave were confirmed to be true, but the club he has given so much to has decided to hold him against his will for at least one more season. The future is very much in flux, as new elections in March will in all likelihood oust Bartomeu and possibly name Messi’s friend and former teammate Xavi Hernández as the new manager.

City’s season now hangs in the balance of bringing in a new central defender, but an air of disappointment is difficult to escape when the greatest of all time slips through your fingers. It’s a shameful look for Barcelona as a club, who’ve gone from a classy football club focused on youth development and beautiful football to holding players hostage and signing constant Galáctico flops in just a decade.

“I wasn’t happy and I wanted to leave,” Messi said. “The management of the club led by Bartomeu is a disaster. The truth is that there’s been no project…Bartomeu told me that by the end of the season, I can decide whether I want to go or whether I want to stay and in the end he didn’t keep this promise.”

These are words seething with anger from Barcelona’s best-ever player, who could have kicked off a rebuild by moving on amicably from their 33-year old icon. Now, they face a season of unprecedented drama (even for their standards) as Messi rumors continue to fly. They have exponentially increased their odds of keeping Messi past this year by taking this stance, simply based on the fact that he will need to leave under a new president and manager, but its a terrible look for Bartomeu and the club.

From a Manchester City perspective, however, only disappointment remains. City’s odds of ever signing Messi have decreased significantly, and even if it is done in a year’s time as many will predict, it will now be a 34-year old Messi fresh off wasting another year of his illustrious career at a club that simply cannot get it right.