“I still haven’t accepted the reality of leaving this club now – I love this club,” said Messi, who has repeatedly wiped away tears in front of a squad of journalists at the club’s Camp Nou who gave him a standing ovation standing on Sunday.
Messi, widely regarded as the most gifted player in the history of the game, won 35 trophies at the club he joined at the age of 13 – including four Champions Leagues and 10 league titles while his 672 goals are a record for any of the top five European leagues.
Former Barcelona and England star Gary Lineker was one of the first to respond to the news, praising the Argentine’s legacy on Sunday.
“So sad to see a clearly very emotional Lionel Messi having to say goodbye to @FCBarcelona,” tweeted Lineker, who spent three seasons with the Catalan giants in the late 1980s, winning a Spanish Cup and a Coupe des cup winners.
“No player in the history of sport has given so much joy, so many unforgettable moments, so much success to a single club,” said Lineker.
So sad to see a clearly very emotional Lionel Messi having to say goodbye to @FC Barcelona. No player in the history of sport has given so much joy, so many unforgettable moments, so much success to a single club.
– Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 8, 2021
The club itself posted on its Twitter feed a photo of Messi surrounded by replicas of the trophies he won with the single word: “Irreproachable”.
“When Messi cries, we all cry. Big hug. I love you Leo, ”Barcelona also tweeted.
Irreproachable 🐐 pic.twitter.com/xpWRDlHyCq
– FC Barcelone (@FCBarcelona) August 8, 2021
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman, whose goal saw the club win their first European Cup in 1992, tweeted on Saturday that it was “still difficult to understand that you would no longer be playing for @FCBarcelona” while praising Messi’s work ethic.
Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong tweeted on Saturday night that “when I was a kid I loved to watch all your games with my brother on TV in our bedroom”.
“When I arrived here two years ago, I discovered that you were an amazing person. It was a dream to play alongside the best player in history, ”said de Jong.
Former Barcelona midfielder general Andres Iniesta recalled 14 years of ‘magical moments’ but added ‘imagining the club without you or seeing you at Camp Nou in another jersey’ would be very difficult.
Another team-mate, Sergino Dest, said playing alongside Messi was a dream come true for him.
He tweeted: “As a child you dream of playing with players like Leo Messi. Although barely a year, I am blessed to have been able to play with you in this club where you have made so much history. It will be something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
As a child, you dream of playing with players like Leo Messi. Although barely a year old, I am fortunate to have been able to play with you in this club where you have made so much history. It will be something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. pic.twitter.com/vL9LOgthu3
– Sergiño Dest (@sergino_dest) August 7, 2021