Former Barcelona President Gaspart Claims the Board and Fans Must Thank Lionel Messi After His U-turn

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Lionel Messi has decided to stay at Barcelona until 2021 | MANU FERNANDEZ/Getty Images

Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart believes the board and the fans must thank Lionel Messi for not leaving the club, especially during their time of turmoil.

The club captain had been trying to force his way out of the club for two weeks, but on Friday he confirmed that he is now set to stay on at the Camp Nou for 2020/21.

And Gaspart - who was president of Barca between 2000 and 2003 - told Radio Marca: "I don't care what he said in the statement. I don't care - what's important to me is that he's staying. He's put himself at the same level as [Alfredo] Di Stefano at Real Madrid."

Gaspart concluded, "How problems start isn't important. What is important is how they're solved and I'm delighted that he doesn't want to fight with the club. The club consists of 160,000 people and they have to be grateful for what he's done."

Messi was linked with a move to Manchester City as a reunion with former boss Pep Guardiola was being mooted, while Inter have also been touted as long-term admirers.

The Argentinian is Barca's all-time leading scorer with 634 goals and 276 assists in 731 appearances in all competitions for the club.

Last month, Gaspart claimed that he rather see Messi leave for free next season once his contract expired. He said, "[Messi] cannot leave. He will have to leave in 2021."

He added, "I have seen the contract and it is very clear. The clause ended in June and there is no going back. I prefer him to leave next year for zero than to go now for less than €700 million."

Gaspart concluded, "The club is in charge here, not the player. The club paid the players. And this is not a matter of money, there is a signed contract and that's it."