Lionel Messi was unable to hold back his tears ahead of speaking at his press conference on Sunday, in which he said goodbye to Barcelona.
The Argentine tried and failed to prevent himself from crying before delivering his speech, clearly affected by this week’s news that he would not be staying at the Camp Nou.
“These recent days I’ve been thinking, giving a lot of thought to what I can say,” Messi began, following days of silence on his part. “And the truth is that I can’t think of anything, this is really difficult for me after so many years.
“I’ve been here my entire life, I’m not ready for this. And last year with all the nonsense, I was convinced of what I wanted to say, but this year it is not the same.
“This year my family and I were convinced we were going to stay here, that is what we all wanted more than anything. We were at home, and we thought we’d be staying here in Barcelona, the time we’ve hard here and with the city and football has been amazing.
“But today, I have to say goodbye to all of this.
“I’ve been here since I was 13. After 21 years I am leaving with my wife and three little Catalan-Argentine kids, and I can’t tell you everything.
“I can tell you in a few years we want to come back because this is my home. I am just really grateful to my teammates and former teammates, everyone that has been by my side. There are so many people.
“For this club I have so much respect. So many beautiful things have happened. Also some bad things, but all this helped me to grow and improve and make me the person I am today.
“I gave everything for this shirt from the first day until the very last. The truth is that I am leaving.
“I would love to be able to go in a different way. I never imagined it this way. I didn’t think I would have to say goodbye.
“I imagined it with the team on the pitch, the last cheers. We have been playing without fans and it has been difficult not to hear them. And now I have to leave without seeing the fans for a year and a half.
“If I had imagined it, it would have been with all the fans. I hope I can come back and be part of this club again in any way and help it become the best in the world.
“We’ve not been able to play in front of fans for this last year because of the pandemic and it’s been difficult not to hear their cheers, not to have them nearby, not to hear them shouting my name.
“I leave this club now without seeing the fans for over a year and a half. If I imagine it, I would have imagined the Camp Nou being full and being able to say goodbye properly.
“But it has to be this way, and I’m so grateful for all the love that everyone has shown me because I’ve had some such great moments here over the years, some bad ones too but the love people have shown me has always been the same.”
Messi’s former Barcelona teammates gathered to hear his words, and they themselves were unable to hide their emotions, applauding the Argentine but also crying with him.