Argentina and FC Barcelona captain Lionel Messi shared his concerns about former teammate Neymar joining arch-rivals Real Madrid during the summer transfer window and also revealed that he was close to leaving Barcelona in an interview with RAC 1. He also remarked on press reports that said he did not want Antoine Griezmann to come to Barca.
Barcelona had sought Neymar out during this summer transfer window but could not secure a deal for the Brazilian as they were unable to meet PSG’s demands. Messi had previously admitted that he would have liked Neymar to return and he has now admitted that he expected Real Madrid to seize the opportunity and secure Neymar.
"I really thought Neymar would go to Real Madrid if he didn't come here," Messi said.
“He really wanted to leave Paris and he'd shown it and I thought that Florentino [Perez] and Real Madrid were going to do something to sign him,” the Argentine added.
He also revealed that the tax fraud charges filed in June 2013, which were a stunning blow to the prestige of Messi, almost led to him thinking of leaving the Catalan club.
“At that time (problems with the Treasury) I had the mind to leave, not to leave Barca but to leave Spain. I felt that I was being mistreated and did not want to be here anymore. There was interest from many teams but no official offer.”
"There was a time when one ends up tired and exhausted by a series of circumstances. I had several times, especially the 2013-2014 era, before the problem with the Treasury and everything. It was very difficult for me and my family because people don't know much about what's going on and listen and hear, and a section of the press helped make it happen, it's all fake as was seen later. I was the first one and that's why everything was so hard. They showed that they were going for everything with me they showed that they were going to all the athletes and that's how it was happening. The truth is that it was hard for everything that happened but what it was better that my children were small and did not know.”
The Argentine however revealed that his idea now is to stay at Barca. “We think so, you never know but our idea is this, stay in Barcelona”.
On the matter of returning to Argentina, Messi said: “It's something I always dreamed of, playing for Newells, but sometimes you have to think about the family that is the most important thing."
There have been assumptions in the Spanish media that Messi and some of the senior players did not want Antoine Griezmann to come to Barca. The Frenchman is yet to settle at Barca and have found it difficult to link up on the pitch with Messi. The Barca No. 10 was hopeful that Griezmann will adapt and denied suggestions that he did not want Griezmann at Barca.
"It is not easy to play at Barca. It may seem easy from the outside but for any player who does not know Barça's philosophy as a child, coming from outside is very difficult. He comes from playing differently than we do here but we have no doubt that he will do it because he is of very high quality and an intelligent player who will end up adapting. It is a lie that we did not want Griezmann. I said it the first year the club wanted to bring him in. I remember statements I made that he was one of the better players and the best are welcome, I never had any problem with him coming, so it’s a lie.”
Barca were recently embroiled in an internal battle, as Gerard Pique pointed fingers towards the board and claimed that members of the board were behind a vicious newspaper editorial in the Catalan press which criticised the players for having too much decision-making power.
Messi said that he was surprised by Pique’s comments. “He [Pique] is very transparent, very intelligent, he says what he thinks without worrying about how it may affect and at all times he is sincere and tries to face it, he is very happy and funny. Getafe? Geri does not inform anything to anybody and much less with me. I was surprised by what he said. The one who has been in this house for many years and knows how they handle the issues knows that we all found out everything. I honestly would not have done it because I think it is to make the problem bigger at a time that did not suit us at the dressing room but Geri is like that, he felt it and said it and the important thing is that now we are all well. The players do not make the decisions and it was demonstrated with many events that happened. It is something that has been said. It is said that I make decisions and tell the president about the players that have to come or leave. These are things we have to learn to live with together.
Messi said he was also surprised by the way former goalkeeper Victor Valdes was sacked. Valdes returned to Camp Nou to take charge of the U19s back in July, five years after ending his time at the club as a player, was sacked on Tuesday.
“Everything surprised me a little, from the day he got to how things were handled. I can't say much because I don't know, I saw that a lot of information and a lot of news came out and I was surprised that he left this way.”