Inside Lionel Messi's final days at Barcelona, and how he ended up joining PSG

Lionel Messi, a Barcelona suburbs beach town, sat waiting for the development of his move to Paris Saint-Germain on Monday.Last Thursday, it was announced that he couldn't return to Barcelona. Negotiations had been ongoing since Barca announced that "economic obstacles" had prevented them from formalising their five-year contract with Messi. The world's media waited for his next move. International news agencies had video journalists stationed at his house, at the airports in Barcelona and Paris, at the Paris hospital where PSG's new signings typically undergo their medicals, and at the French club's headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt.After Barca contract expires, Messi signs with PSGMessi is greeted by PSG fans at the unveilingBarca's difficult Sunday: Saying goodbye Messi and playing JuventusThe image arrived on Tuesday as Messi, who joined Barca at the age of 13 and spent 21 years there, headed towards the airport.After spending the previous two days at the Messi house, his former teammate and close friend Luis Suarez had already left. PSG unveiled Messi later that day and he signed a two-year contract with the Ligue 1 team. Camera crews had been following his every move throughout the day in Paris, before the club released a drone video that took viewers on a dramatic tour through the stadium and club shop. After the move was complete, Messi stood at the Parc des Princes.Twelve months ago, Messi wanted Barca to be his destination club. Sources told ESPN at the time that Manchester City was Messi's preferred destination club. However, PSG were also interested. He didn't want leave this time though. Jordi Elvole, a journalist Messi spoke out last December to say that he would wait until 2020-21 season before making a decision about his future. It was becoming increasingly clear that he wanted to stay after the campaign ended.His turnaround was made possible by the return to power of Joan Laporta, his president. Laporta was the president at the time that Messi entered Barca's first football team. Pep Guardiola appointed him as manager. He oversaw a period that saw Barca win its first treble in 2009. Jorge, the charismatic lawyer, had a great relationship with Laporta. Laporta met Messi shortly after he was elected to a second term in March. He has since stated that Messi left that lunch convinced that he would continue his relationship with Barcelona.With each passing week, Barca's financial woes became more apparent. Barca's gross debt had risen to 1.2 billion and LaLiga president Javier Tebas said that unless drastic cuts were made, they wouldn't be allowed to sign a new contract for Messi. It is not yet clear if they will be allowed to register their summer signings prior to the league's kickoff this weekend. Emerson Royal, Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay were all signed to keep Messi satisfied with the team.It wasn't long before Lionel Messi's future was clarified. After it was confirmed that he could not continue at Barcelona last week, he was announced as PSG's new superstar on Tuesday. Aurelien Meunier - PSG/PSG via Getty ImagesBarcelona blamed financial problems for Messi's inability to stay, but the story goes deeper. This was the result of years of mismanagement, overspending, a feud between LaLiga's top two clubs, two of the most important figures in Barca’s recent history falling out, a late twist, and hurried negotiations that lasted into the early hours of the morning in Paris.All of this contributed to Qatar Sports Investments realising a dream since QSI bought PSG in 2011. After scoring a record 672 goals in 778 matches, and winning 35 trophies over 16 glittering seasons, one of the greatest players in the game was forced to quit his boyhood club.Additional reporting by Rob Dawson and Eduardo Fernandez - Abascal, Moises Lorens, Rodrigo FaezMessi, Barcelona, LaLiga are the breaking pointsMessi thought he'd sign a new contract with Barcelona two weeks ago. But by Tuesday night, he felt betrayed and let down by the club. Although he didn't criticize anyone, he indicated that he was not satisfied with the club's efforts to keep him.Actually, Messi had already agreed to extend his contract with Barcelona. ESPN reported in July that a five year deal had been reached with Messi, who accepted a 50% salary cut. The salary would be divided so Messi would get more money in the last year than the first. Although the club confirmed that terms were reached when Messi announced his departure, they also stated that it was not possible to register the deal due to financial fair play rules.Play 1:56 PSG Officially Announce Lionel Messi Paris Saint-Germain has taken to social media in order to confirm the signing for Argentina captain Lionel Messi.Before the pandemic, Barca's wage and transfer spending limit was more than 600 million. Sources suggest it will hover around 200m for this season. Last Friday, Laporta stated that the club lost 500m last season -- more than twice what was originally estimated. According to Laporta, Barca's wage bill for Messi was 110% of revenues, while it was 95% without Messi. The league regulations stipulate that the wage-to-revenue limit should be 70%. This means that even Messi took a larger wage cut or played for free, Barca wouldn't be able to register him unless there were significant cuts.Laporta has known this information for many months. Laporta knew about the financial situation before he was elected. He also knew what the financial situation was when he signed Garcia Emerson, Emerson, Emerson, and Emerson. He blamed the "shipwreck", the board that had failed to recognize the club's financial situation, and said an audit had revealed the club's "much worse" economic condition. However, he didn't always act as if the club was facing a new reality due to years of financial mismanagement by Josep Maria Bartomeu.Laporta was able to find a way out.STREAM ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ Dan Thomas is joined with Craig Burley, Shaka Herlop and other experts to bring you the most recent highlights and discuss the major storylines. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S only).He met with Tebas, the president of La Liga, in mid-July to discuss the league's plan for selling 10% of its commercial businesses to CVC Capital Partners. Every Spanish club would be financially benefited by the sale of 2.7 billion. It would also allow Barca to register Messi’s new contract. Tebas stated that there was "enthusiasm abundant" among the Barca directors at the meeting regarding their better chances of renewing Messi's contract.Laporta had retracted the agreement after LaLiga made it public last Wednesday. Sources claim that Ferran Reverter, the Barcelona CEO, convinced him that the deal was not in Barca's best interest and that they would have to give up too much to CVC Capital Partners. CVC Capital Partners would receive around 10% of the league’s revenues (including TV rights) for the next 50-years. Barca responded to Real Madrid's criticisms of the deal by publishing a similar statement. Laporta had already backed down, giving up on Messi. Madrid announced that they would sue LaLiga, CVC and CVC for the agreement in the following days, while Wednesday's statement by the Royal Spanish Football Federation declared the sale illegal.- LaLiga on ESPN+ : Stream LIVE and replays (U.S. Only)- Watch ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. Only)- Do you not have ESPN? Get instant accessFor months, Florentino Perez, Madrid president, and Laporta have been fighting with Tebas over the European Super League. However, a source close to the league said that there was nothing in CVC that would have quashed plans for an independent European competition.After a time in Miami, Ibiza and the Dominican Republic, Messi returned last Wednesday to Barcelona. He later claimed that a photograph of him with Neymar, three PSG players, was an "accident". Sources also claim that he was returning to Spain to sign his new Barca contract on Thursday, the day his father was due to fly in. Laporta, however, had apparently determined that it was financially impossible to renew Messi’s terms. He stated that signing the CVC agreement would have put the club's future at risk, even if it meant keeping Messi.Laporta, Barcelona president, miscalculated his bet on Messi's future. LaLiga's limitations couldn't be overcome and the club was forced to accept defeat. One question that remains is: When did he know Messi would have a hard time? Joan Gosa/Xinhua via Getty ImagesESPN was told by sources close to the negotiations that there are questions about Laporta’s account of events. This includes his story about when he decided to end Messi's contract and how he communicated with the player and his dad. Sources suggest that Laporta knew the details for weeks and tried to convince the Messi family to stay. Sources pointed out that Pepe Costa was not offered a contract by Barca after his terms expired in June.Costa was Messi's confidant in the dressing room. He is likely to find a home in Paris. According to another source, the summer signings were also described as "strange" by Laporta, who claimed they were trying to renew Messi. However, it was true that Messi wanted a team that could compete in all competitions, including LaLiga and the Champions League.Jorge said to reporters Tuesday that he would "ask the club" when asked if anyone was responsible for his son's premature 1:25 Why Barcelona has more questions than answers Julien Laurens examines Barcelona's financial problems leading up to their LaLiga opener against Real Sociedad.Messi broke his silence at a press conference held at Camp Nou's auditorium on Sunday. His family was there, as well as his former teammates and friends (Xavi Hernandez, Puyol) among others. He spoke about his sadness at the departure, as tears streamed down from his eyes.He said, "I don’t know [if Barca tried to keep me]], but I do know that I did everything possible." "Laporta claimed that we couldn't achieve it due to the league rules. "I can assure you that I did everything I could to stay. I did it because I wanted to."Messi made clear that he was not happy with Laporta's story in his comments. After he was elected in March for the second time, there were many photos of Laporta hugging Messi. However, sources tell ESPN that Messi did not want to take photographs with him after Sunday's farewell event. There, he posed with all of the Barca trophies with his friends, teammates, and ex-teammates. Instead, they exchanged a handshake after Messi left Camp Nou. Sources confirmed that their relationship is now strained.Play 0:52 Luis Garcia reacts to Lionel Messi's final news conference. He says that he never imagined seeing Lionel Messi leave FC Barcelona in the manner he did today.They had been in tension over the days and each gave his own news conference before they parted ways. One director, Jaume Lopis, has resigned in the 48 hours following Messi's departure. He said Barca "didn’t do everything they could" while pointing out Laporta’s behavior since everything fell apart.Last Friday, Laporta, who was singing "y se marcho", the unfortunate lyrics to Jose Luis Perales' concert, was seen. On Saturday, he met Perez, Madrid chief, and Agnelli, president of Juventus. He's been on Ibiza this week.Llopis said that "Nobody can understand why while fans are crying over Leo's departure, Laporta is enjoying fish supper alongside Real Madrid president," Llopis stated to Spanish radio. "That doesn’t paint a very positive image."Llopis is unhappy that Laporta did not do enough to keep Messi. Llopis feels that Laporta could do more, both before and after Thursday’s announcement. Laporta, however, quickly changed the page and met with Perez, Agnelli and the remaining components of the Super League project.Messi's Barca teammates were also stunned by the events. They didn't post anything on social media for 24 hours. Sergio Busquets was first to post; the rest of their team followed shortly after. ESPN's one-time player said that "No one wanted" to be the first.There were many emotions at Messi's departure, but also a resolve to succeed without him. The player said, "We still have great squad."Messi is looking to ParisEurope's elite were shocked by the breakdown of Messi’s contract with Barcelona. Man City sources claim they were "blindsided", although top-ranking executives from the club learned Messi's departure 24 hours before the announcement. They didn't expect him to be available so they had other plans. Jack Grealish was signed from Aston Villa for 100m, while Harry Kane was still being pursued.According to another source, there were short talks and some division over whether Messi should be pursued again. However, unlike last year, this time they weren't really in the running.Play 1:40 Marcotti criticizes Barcelona over failing to retain Messi Gab Marcotti questions Barcelona’s decision-making in failing to reach an agreement with Lionel Messi for the club's continued existence.Messi claimed that his camp received several calls following Barca's announcement. Another source confirmed that Atletico Madrid had made contact with him after signing Suarez last season. It was thought possible at 20m gross the first year, which is what Suarez would have earned at Barcelona next seasons. But it quickly became clear that PSG was the most likely candidate to sign him.Sources told ESPN that Messi called Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of PSG, to discuss his plans. Although he confirmed that his son was leaving Barca, PSG, just like City, were taken by surprise. He was due to renew.Jean-Claude Blanc, CEO of PSG, and his team worked all night to make a deal for Messi. They weren't starting from scratch. A year ago, Messi had announced that he wanted to leave Barca. The team spoke with his father and began working on a contract. Neymar, who had been trying to reunite with his former teammate since then, told ESPN last December that he hopes to play again with Messi soon. Leonardo, the PSG sporting director, confirmed that the club was monitoring Messi's contract situation. Leonardo and Al-Khelaifi also kept in touch over the past year.ESPN has been informed by sources that Neymar was looking for Sergio Ramos or Messi to join him in Paris at the same time last winter. Ramos joined PSG earlier this summer from Madrid, but it was clear that Messi wouldn't be joining them. PSG was ready when Messi's situation changed dramatically last week.The Factory, PSG's HQ in Boulogne-Billancourt, in the west suburbs of Paris, was buzzing with activity until the early hours of the morning, and the challenge was simple: make the deal appealing for Messi and viable for the club.UEFA's financial fair-play rules have been halted by the pandemic. However, sources say that PSG still has the regulations in mind when it is time to plan for the long-term. They needed to make sure they could afford Messi after renewing Neymar's contact and signing Achraf Hakimi and Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Achraf Ramos. Sources claim that PSG owner Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani was being kept updated on every detail. He has always had two goals since he bought the club 10 years back: to sign Messi or Cristiano Rojo and win the Champions League. They were close to Ronaldo before but couldn't quite pull it off.Messi was not free of a transfer fee. The signing-on fee for Messi and his salary were paid, as well as the commission for his dad and the others involved in the deal. Sources tell ESPN that big agents attempted to get in on this action. Some of the more complicated parts of the deal were more difficult to finalize, like image rights. According to sources, that section of Messi’s contract was close to 70 pages long and detailed. Messi's lawyers poured over every word and punctuation. All parties had to agree on what the Argentine star could or could not do, given Messi's sponsors and PSG commercial partners.It didn't take long for the two sides to reach a common understanding. The legal team at PSG worked throughout the weekend planning Messi's arrival in Paris.Messi and Neymar were always good friends, ever since they played together at Barcelona. But, since Neymar was at PSG, he has been telling his friend to go to Paris. This week, the wish was fulfilled. MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP via Getty ImagesNeymar was the first PSG player who spoke to Messi after his Barca exit announcement. Since last year, Neymar has been asking Messi to come to Paris with him, and praising both the club as well as the city. As the PSG players chatted on WhatsApp, the Brazilian president Al-Khelaifi was also in touch with him to push for the deal. Angel Di Maria, Messi’s international teammate was also present. He has known Messi since they were 14.Messi had a lengthy conversation with Mauricio Pochettino, PSG coach, over the phone before the weekend. They discussed the team, tactics, and Messi's potential role. Although they don't live in the same area, Pochettino, just like Messi from Rosario is familiar with them both. The former Tottenham manager reminded Messi, on the phone, that he was the Espanyol captain when Messi made his Barcelona debut in 2004 at Montjuic.PSG was supposed to be preparing to their Ligue 1 opener against Troyes but everyone was now thinking and talking about Messi. By Friday, Neymar had made it clear to his teammates that Messi would be joining. Pochettino answered questions at a news conference, but said that the club was working on it. Both Al-Khelaifi (a victory) and Leonardo cancelled their trips to Troyes on Saturday to see the team's opening game. They stayed in Paris to conclude the negotiations.Later in the day, Messi joined the club.Play 2:04 Is it possible that Messi and PSG will not work? Steve Nicol claims he doesn't see how Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mabappe can't work together.Messi's contract initially lasts for two years. It is worth 35m, before taxes. Achievement-related bonuses are not included and there is no signing-on fee. PSG originally hoped to fly Messi into Paris on Sunday. However, he was delayed by a few minor issues and finally arrived in Paris on Tuesday. To give him privacy, entire streets in Paris were closed off. However, he briefly appeared on a balcony wearing an "Ici c'est Paris T-shirt" to wave to his fans.PSG originally planned to hold a press conference on Tuesday, but it was pushed back to Wednesday by media demand. They also wanted to present him at Eiffel Tower but too much red tape (permits and security clearances) prevented them. Instead, he will be presented at Parc des Princes this weekend, before the Strasbourg match. He won't play his first match for the club immediately; Pochettino designed a fitness program to have Messi match-ready by August, likely to face Reims before he joins Argentina in September.Messi had sent Neymar a message before Tuesday's unveiling to let him know that the deal was done. Neymar was willing to give up his No. He offered to give his No. 10 shirt to Neymar, but Messi refused, preferring the number 30 -- which is the number with whom he began his career at Barcelona's 17-year-old age. PSG had to request permission from the league because No. Goalkeepers are allowed to keep 30.Ligue 1 was the exception. It's not every day that the best player in the game comes to town.