An emotional Lionel Messi said joining Paris St-Germain was “a possibility, but nothing is agreed” as he confirmed his exit from Barcelona.
Messi is ending his 21-year association with Barca, who cannot afford to honour the new contract they agreed with him because of La Liga’s salary limit.
The record six-time Ballon d’Or winner, 34, is now a free agent.
“My family and I were convinced we were going to stay here, at home,” he said during a news conference on Sunday.
“This is the end with this club and now a new story will begin,” added the Argentina forward. “Yes, it’s one of the most difficult moments for me.
“I don’t want to leave this club – it’s a club I love and this is a moment I didn’t expect.
“Last year I wanted to leave, this year I wanted to stay. That’s why I’m so sad.
“It was like my blood ran cold. I was really sad. It was really difficult right up to now. I’m still trying to process it all.
“When I get home I will still feel bad; it will be even worse. I’m not ready for this.”
Why is Messi leaving Barcelona?
Messi looked set to extend his stay at the Nou Camp having agreed a new five-year contract in July, halving the £123m a season he reportedly received in his previous contract.
The agreement was dependent on player departures to get Barca’s wage bill under La Liga’s limit, however, and the club were unable to do so.
“I offered to reduce my salary by 50% and they didn’t ask me for anything else,” Messi said. “It is not true that they asked me for anything more.
“I only know that it was not possible because of La Liga, because the club did not want to go into more debt.”
Barcelona president Joan Laporta said on Friday that trying to keep Messi could have put the club at risk for 50 years.
Once it became clear Barca were unable to honour the contract they had agreed with Messi, his representatives contacted PSG, but wherever Messi goes next, he said he wants to “play my last years competing for titles”.
He also had a warning for his former Barca team-mate Dani Alves after the 38-year-old right-back helped Brazil win Olympic gold to extend his record for career titles to 43.
“I congratulate Dani Alves and warn him that I am going to fight to catch up with him and surpass him,” Messi added. “It’s my mentality. I have to find my way to keep competing and winning.”