Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained a quote attributed to Lionel Messi by The Guardian's Fabrizio Romano in which Messi calls Barcelona's management a "disaster." Romano deleted his tweet, and the reference has been removed from our article.
"I told the club, including the president, that I wanted to go. I've been telling him that all year. I believed it was time to step aside," Messi said in an interview with Goal.
Messi will now see out the remainder of his contract, which expires in June 2021. Unless he signs an extension, he'll be allowed to leave next summer on a free transfer.
Manchester City were reportedly considered the favorites to sign Messi if he managed to break away from Barcelona.
Messi said he couldn't bear the idea of suing Barcelona, the club he joined as 13-year-old with a growth hormone deficiency.
"It has hurt me a lot that things are published against me and, above all, that false things are published," he told Goal. "Or that they came to think that I could go to trial against Barca in order to benefit myself.
“I would never do such a thing. I repeat, I wanted to go and it was entirely my right, because the contract said that I could be released. And it is not, 'I'm leaving and that's it.' I was leaving, and it cost me a lot.
“I wanted to go because I thought about living my last years of football happily. Lately, I have not found happiness within the club."
Messi's father, Jorge Messi, arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday to demand his son's release, according to reports, citing a now-infamous clause that allows the 33-year-old to unilaterally terminate his contract at the end of each season. Barcelona, however, insisted the clause expired in June.
Bartomeu reportedly made it clear during a two-hour meeting with Jorge that any team interested in signing the six-time Ballon d'Or winner would have to pay his €700-million release clause. La Liga threw its support behind the club, confirming the release clause is valid.
Messi Sr. said upon his arrival that it would be "difficult" for his son to stay at Barcelona, and the events leading up to this point suggested as much. Lionel Messi sent an official document Aug. 25 - shortly after the calamitous 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals - to tell the club he was terminating his contract. His camp reportedly argued the termination clause was still valid because the season was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
But Messi insisted his initial decision had nothing do with the loss to Bayern.
"Everything became very difficult for me, and there came a time when I considered looking for new ambitions," he added. "It did not come because of the Champions League result against Bayern, no - I had been thinking about the decision for a long time."
With a court case looming, Messi boycotted Barcelona's first preseason training session Monday. He also missed the club's first round of coronavirus testing, which is required for all players to participate in training.
All the while, City had remained on alert. Messi was reportedly in contact with the Premier League side and keen on a move. Conversations with City manager and former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola apparently took place days after Barcelona were eliminated from the Champions League.
Messi was also linked with PSG, Inter Milan, and Juventus.