Lionel Messi has revealed he feels it was disrespectful for Barcelona president Joan Laporta to declare he could have played for free while also hinting that he would have accepted a larger wage reduction to stay at the Nou Camp.

The 34-year-old Argentine agreed to a 50% pay cut in the summer, but Barca was unable to register him with LaLiga since their expenditure cap for the season was reduced to €97 million, over €300 million less than the previous season.

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LAPORTA (BARCA PRESIDENT)

After Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer in October, Laporta stated he hoped the Argentina striker would volunteer to play for free until the very last second.

“The truth is, as I explained when I left, I did everything possible to stay,” Messi said in an interview with SPORT released on Monday.

“Never at any moment did they ask me to play for free. They asked me to reduce my salary by 50% and I did it without any problem. We were willing to help the club more. My desire and that of my family was to stay in Barcelona.

“No one asked me to play for free, but at the same time, the president’s words were inappropriate. It hurt because I don’t think there was any need to say that.

“It’s like taking the ball from you and not accepting the responsibility or taking charge of things. That makes people think and generates doubts that I don’t think I deserve.”

Messi’s last contract with Barcelona was for a maximum of €555 million over four years, according to a leak earlier this year, albeit he didn’t earn that much in the end due to incentives. During the pandemic, he also gave up a portion of his salary.

After loyalty bonuses and signing-on fees, his gross yearly pay was roughly €70 million.

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