Lionel Messi has admitted the ill feeling between him and Barcelona over his attempt to leave the club in the close season has affected his form this season, in which he has posted his lowest goal and assist tallies in 13 years.
Messi caused consternation at Barca when he sent the club a burofax (official notice) that he wanted to leave in August, but then president Josep Maria Bartomeu blocked the move and the Argentine committed to stay this season to avoid a legal battle. He has less than seven months left on his contract and is able to negotiate with other clubs from January.
“Everything that happened before the summer, how the season ended, then the burofax and everything else… I dragged everything into the start of the season a bit,” Messi said in an interview with Spanish television channel La Sexta. “The truth is right now I’m feeling fine but in the summer I had a very bad time.”
The Argentine struck for the 643rd time for Barca on Saturday to equal Pele’s goals record for a single club. However, he has drastically underperformed this campaign, as have his side, who trail leaders Atletico Madrid by eight points in La Liga.
Messi, who finished top scorer in La Liga last season and routinely gets more than 40 goals each year for his club, has only scored nine times in all competitions this campaign, five of which came from the penalty spot.
He also has no assists in 13 league games after contributing 21 last season, making the start of this campaign his worst since the 2007-08 season, when he was 20-years-old and suffering from injuries. Barca face elections on January 24 to pick the successor to Bartomeu, who resigned in October, and Messi remained tight-lipped on where his future lay, saying he was fully focused on helping his side return to form.
“Right now I’m feeling good and looking forward to fighting for every competition we have ahead,” he added. “I know the club is in a difficult moment at institutional level and on the pitch and everything surrounding Barca right now is difficult, but I’m feeling excited.”