Barcelona president breaks silence over the club's refusal to sell Lionel Messi
Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has broken his silence about Lionel Messi's failed departure in the summer, explaining the main reason why he held on to the talisman.
Messi was strongly linked with a move to Manchester City - where he would have been reunited with Pep Guardiola - but Bartomeu has revealed that Barca refused to strengthen a direct rival for European silverware.
The president has been singled out by Barca fans over Messi's desperation to leave, but continues to stand by his decision.
"Our priority was keeping Messi as part of our new project so I decided against starting a discussion," he told Goal.
"I had been accused of forcing his departure in order to balance our books. Well, no, we put the interests of the club first and didn't want to reinforce a direct rival.
"We made that decision knowing that we would be criticised for it."
Despite keeping the Argentine at the Nou Camp against his wishes, Bartomeu says he understands Messi's frustration.
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"I understand the positions of everyone, empathising is important. In the case of Leo, it is good to get angry because it is not good to accept defeat and we have all gotten angry.
"But there was a deadline for him to announce whether or not he was going unilaterally. He didn't and here it is. We all want him to retire at Barca.
"The project is very interesting with young people and veterans, like Messi. And I think that, with him, we are going to win a title this season."
Barcelona lost 3-1 at home to Real Madrid on Saturday to lie 12th in La Liga, with many fans still calling for Bartomeu to go.
So far 16,500 supporters have put their signatures to a motion that could force a new presidency - but Bartomeu is standing firm.
"There is no reason for me to resign. It's not an appropriate time to hand in my resignation. No one will be able to make the decisions if I decide to resign.
"The idea of stepping down has never crossed my mind. Never."
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