Argentine superstar Lionel Messi admits it will be “very difficult” to get Barcelona back to the levels of the past as he confirms contact with Pep Guardiola.
After the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich that saw the Catalan giants crash out of the Champions League their all-time top goalscorer made clear his intention to leave the club.
Messi looked to activate a clause in his contract allowing him to walk away for free but it was blocked by president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Rather than take Barça through the courts the forward remained at Camp Nou but with his deal up in the summer he can negotiate with other clubs from January.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are thought to be keen to sign him, but Barcelona ‘s presidential elections in February could sway things.
On Sunday an interview was broadcast in which Messi discussed his future, ruling out Atletico Madrid or Real Madrid.
He also rejected the offer of a travel guide for Paris or Manchester but was coy on his immediate future.
Interviewer Jordi Evole handed the superstar a Barcelona shirt to sign and asked what it means to him.
Messi told La Sexta: “This shirt means everything for me. My love for the club, the city, my kids were born here.
“I have lived in Barcelona for longer than in my own country. The club gave me everything, it has formed me as a player and as a person.
“I’m good now and the episode of the summer is behind me.
“I find myself wanting to fight for everything that lies ahead.
“The club is going through a difficult time. Everything that surrounds Barcelona is becoming difficult.
“The club is really bad, it is very bad and it is difficult – or it will be difficult – to get back to where it was.
“The game against Bayern was difficult for everyone. We knew we could lose, but not like that.”
It was then put to Messi that people are analysing his every move to see what comes next.
He replied: “There’s no way I could live my life worrying what everyone thinks.
“Many people speak without knowing. People believe everything and not always everything is true. I cannot control everything.
“Have I cried? For sporting matters no, even if I suffered a lot. But yes, for a personal issue that I’d rather keep private.”
While he insists the incident is behind him, Messi has no regrets over the legal notice he faxed to Barcelona.
Asked if he’d do it again he replied: “Yes, it was a manner of making a point and expressing my feelings. It was me telling the club that I wanted to leave.
“Many times I told the president I wanted to leave. The burofax was a way of saying it officially, to mean it.
“I thought I had completed a cycle and that I needed a change. My head needed to get out of all this.
“I knew it would be a year of transition, for youngsters, I wanted to continue fighting for the Champions League and for the league.
“I wanted to go and I wanted to do it right.
“The president started filtering things to make me look like the bad guy in the movie.
“I’m calm. It was a horrible decision, very difficult to make. It was very difficult to leave the club of my life, I don’t think there is a better city than this. My family didn’t want to move.
“But I genuinely felt it was time to go. Luis Suarez’s departure had nothing to do with the decision but I felt it was crazy the way his exit was handled and that Barcelona let him go to a direct rival.
“Bartomeu deceived me in many things during several years. I’d rather not comment on it now, t will come out in the future but there were plenty of things.
“The last year was hard. Before it had also been difficult because of how we had been eliminated from the Champions League.
“I knew that if I went to trial I was in the right because many lawyers had confirmed it to me.
“That was the last thing I wanted though.”
And Messi admits he is in regular contact with Man City boss Pep Guardiola.
He said: “I don’t know when last got a message from Pep but we have spoken, yes.
“About how things are, how he’s doing at City, how things are going here. For me, he’s the best coach.”
The reported package on offer would include going to play for New York City in MLS to finish his career.
Messi admitted: “I would like to play in the United States and experience life and the league there… but ultimately come back to Barcelona in some capacity.
“I’m not thinking too far ahead in the short term and just want to see how the season finishes.”
Messi has been vocal in the past about wanting Neymar to return to Camp Nou.
But a reunion at PSG may be more likely as the Argentine acknowledges his former team-mate’s return is unlikely.
He said: “Let’s wait and see what happens and I’ll make my mind up in the summer.
“The club are going through a tough period financially so it will be complicated to bring Neymar in.
“How do you pay PSG? The new president would have to be very intelligent about it and get everything in order.
“We speak a great deal (on WhatsApp) and I speak to Luis Suarez every day. Last time I spoke to Neymar was after the Champions League Round of 16 draw.
“I have nothing clear until the end of the year. I will wait until the season is over. I focus on getting titles and not on other things.
“I don’t know if I’m going to leave or not, but if I go I would like to leave in the best way. If I leave, I would like to return to live in the city and work at the club. Barcelona is much bigger than any player. Hopefully the president who comes will do things well.
“It’s a love story from a very young age with the club and the city. No matter how it ends, it doesn’t have to stain everything I’ve experienced in my career. Everything is always overcome.”