So now we know. Lionel Messi is to stay at Barcelona, at least for one more season.
In the short term, it is a victory for the club and its directors in a much-publicised stand-off between them and the Argentine genius.
But while Barcelona have won this battle there is no guarantee they will end up winning the war – or even that this victory doesn’t turn out to be a pyrrhic one.
So why has Messi decided to stay?
Ultimately, Messi is staying because he feels he has no option and that he has been deceived by the club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who he says always assured him if he still felt unhappy with the way things were at the end of the season he could leave the club as the contract suggested.
Messi may well be staying, but this is a man who wants to leave. The spirit of his contract said he could decide what he wanted to do at the end of the season. The letter of the contract said he had to inform the club by 10 June.
On 10 June, coronavirus meant the last phase of the season had not even begun. Barcelona were, at the time, two points clear at the top of the league with 11 games to play and still very much in the Champions League, with the second leg of the last 16 to be played. Hardly the time to hand in your notice.
At the time, Messi was comforted by verbal assurances he had received from the president that at the end of the season he could decide whether he wanted to stay or go.
In a nutshell, Messi thought he had a verbal agreement, but Bartomeu saw his chance and was not about to be remembered as the president who let Messi leave.
In the Goal interview broadcast on Friday, Messi has been unequivocal about it. The reason – well, the main one – he is staying for another season is that he has been told the only way he can leave is by paying the 700m euro buyout clause the club claim is still in his contract. Or go to court. And he was not going to court with the club he loves.
That is something that is not going to happen.
Messi’s legal team have been keen to point out to their client that they believe he had more than a fair chance of winning the argument in a court of law, that – as his father and agent Jorge Messi said in a letter to La Liga – the contract says there is no 700m euro buyout clause applicable from the end of last season.
But Messi was never going to go down the legal road against the club that had given him everything and to whom he has given everything. He made it quite clear in his interview that it never crossed his mind to take Barcelona to court.
So how did we get here?
For a long time, Messi had become increasingly disillusioned with what he perceived as a lack of a project at the Nou Camp, as he himself suggests in the interview.
At the age of 33 he felt in his heart this was a club going backwards. Weaknesses were being masked, mostly by him, sticking plasters placed on gaping wounds.
Messi is, always has been and always will be a winner. He has never done losing very well. He also knows he is now in the twilight of what has been a stellar career and wants to finish it as he always lived it – as a winner.
It had become blindingly obvious to him that this wasn’t going to happen if he stayed on at Barcelona, as much as he wanted to finish his career with them.
He had lost patience with those taking decisions at the club, mostly Bartomeu, and with that also lost the passion he needs to be the best he can be.
Above all, Messi was not enjoying himself and made no secret of the fact to the club’s hierarchy. Don’t worry, he was told, if you feel like that at the end of the season then you can go.
When it became clear the club were not listening to his protestations he finally decided after the exit from the Champions League to officially announce by burofax that he was leaving the club, and that as far as he was concerned his contract allowed him to leave on a free transfer.
Suggestions handing in his notice by recorded delivery were disrespectful were way off the mark. The burofax was sent to make official what he wanted to do because the president was not taking what he said seriously.
All year he had been telling the president that he wanted to go, as he has admitted in the interview. Had he not sent it, nothing would have happened and it would have looked like he was prepared to stay for another year.