LIONEL MESSI is STAYING at Barcelona after his children burst into tears when he told them he wanted to quit.
Messi, 33, handed in his transfer request to Barca last month – leaving his family devastated – but a bitter legal battle scuppered his move.
Messi also suggested he is being forced to stay at Barcelona against his wishes after saying he has no choice but to see out the last year of his contract with the club.
The Argentine legend has three sons with wife Antonela Roccuzzo, Ciro, two, Mateo, aged four, and Thiago, aged seven.
And he revealed how the news sparked a "brutal drama" in the family because they didn't want to leave their home in Barcelona.
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Speaking to Goal, he said: "When I communicated my wish to leave to my wife and children, it was a brutal drama.
“The whole family began crying, my children did not want to leave Barcelona, nor did they want to change schools.
“But I looked further afield and I want to compete at the highest level, win titles, compete in the Champions League. You can win or lose in it, because it is very difficult, but you have to compete.
"Mateo is still little and he doesn't realise what it means to go somewhere else and make your life a few years elsewhere.
“Thiago, he is older. He heard something on TV and found out something and asked.
“I didn't want him to know anything about being forced to leave, to have to live in a new school, or make new friends.
“He cried to me and said ‘let's not go’. I repeat that it was hard, really.
“It was understandable. It happened to me. It is very difficult to make a decision."
Messi is considered the world's greatest footballer with six Ballon d'Or trophies and 634 career goals for the Catalan giants.
Barca insisted they would not let their superstar leave for anything less than £623million – and made it clear the only way that would change was if he took them to court.
Messi cannot bring himself to drag the Spanish giants through the courts despite believing he has a legal right to leave on a free transfer.
He added: "I wasn't happy and I wanted to leave.
"I have not been allowed this in any way and I will STAY at the club so as not to get into a legal dispute.
“I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not.
"Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for LaLiga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season.
"And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club.
"Now I am going to continue in the club because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700 million (£623m) clause, and that this is impossible."
The clause officially expired on June 10 but Messi's camp argue it should be extended because the ongoing pandemic delayed the season.
It has sparked a major transfer tug-of-war between the player, his father and Barcelona that looked set to have a bitter ending.
But Messi has backed down in negotiations and will continue to play at the Nou Camp under new boss Ronald Koeman.
Manchester City were ready to lure Messi to the Etihad with a sensational contract worth £2.4million-a-week.
The incredible deal would have made the Argentina captain the highest-paid individual in the history of the sport.
Messi's statement comes just hours after his father and agent sent LaLiga a letter claiming the player is a free agent.
Spanish football expert Guillem Balague explained that it "denies LaLiga interpretation that the €700m buyout clause is still applicable.
"Jorge insists it is not applicable from the end of last season if the player decides unilaterally to leave FCB."
He then revealed that LaLiga have hit back with a letter of their own.
On the response, Balague wrote: "LaLiga responds to Jorge Messi's letter.
"They insist on their initial take as they reckon Messi is analysing the contract out of context and away from its literal meaning."
Messi put further pressure on Barca chiefs this week after refusing to turn up to the club's Covid-19 testing.
He then failed to show up to training with Koeman forced to take a look at his new squad without the main man.
Messi is also thought to be putting pressure on the Dutch coach to keep hold of his best mate and neighbour Luis Suarez.
Koeman has informed the striker he is up for sale as he plots to make major changes on the field.
Messi was left reeling with the decision and made his thoughts known to the backroom staff and hierarchy.
Now player power could prevail leaving Koeman with his hands tied.
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