Dubia: So, the Lionel Messi staying/leaving Barcelona saga finally seems to be over. The Argentine star has been a free agent since July 1 after his contract with the Catalans expired but everyone expected the two sides to put pen to paper and for the icon to remain at the Camp Nou.
But, due to financial obstacles, Messi is now leaving the only club he has ever played for.
In his 21 years there he played 778 games and scored 672 goals making him their all-time top scorer. He helped them to win 35 trophies including 10 league titles, four Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups during a glittering career.
Should have moved years ago
He had pushed for a move last year but Barca said an astronomical £624 million fee had to be paid which put everyone off. Now, there are no such restrictions. Some feel he ought to have moved years ago and tested himself in other leagues much the way Cristiano Ronaldo has done. There is no debate in my mind as to who is better - it is the Portuguese star and that is because he has proved himself all over Europe and delivered the goods at every club he has represented. Messi will now have to do so too - but at the grand age of 34, he may find the going tough.
The La Liga giants had looked like they were closing in on a deal that would have kept the six-time Ballon d’Or winner on their books until he was 39 but things took a wild twist late last night as news broke that he would be leaving. And the statement released by Barcelona shocked the world of football.
They said a contract was due to be signed yesterday - a five-year deal which would have seen his salary reduced by 50 per cent - but the La Liga’s financial and structural obstacles scuppered that. They were unable register him because his new contract would break the club’s proposed wage structure for the 2021/22 season.
“I hope we can overcome this situation and a new era starts now. There will be a before and after Leo, as there have been other great players at Barca,” said club president Joan Laporta, confirming that Messi’s love affair with Barca was over.
Up until last night’s shock news, Messi had been enjoying a brilliant summer. He had finally ended his wait for a first major international title as Argentina beat Brazil in the Copa America final last month. It was his 10th major tournament for his country. And, last season for Barca, he played 47 games in four different club competitions and scored 38 goals.
He leaves them with a bang, but, where next for Messi?
Man City or PSG
He has been linked with English Premier League champions Man City which would see a reunion with former Barca boss Pep Guardiola. But City have just tied up the transfer of Jack Grealish for a British record £100 million from Aston Villa. They have also been linked all summer for a move for Tottenham striker Harry Kane for around £150 million. And as rich as City are, maybe they would struggle to afford Messi if Kane does follow Grealish through the door. The only other club that potentially have the funds for him is Paris Saint-Germain. And with his close pal Neymar already there, Messi could well be turning out for the French side.
But seeing him in any other jersey other than the famous blaugrana colours will sure take some getting used to.
And what about Barca? They clearly have severe financial problems and have been trying to reduce the salaries of their top-earners by 40 per cent. They are also trying to sell Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Samuel Umtiti and Martin Braithwaite to further reduce the wage bill but there have been no takers for them yet.
It would be difficult for the fans to see any of their heroes leave - but one thing is for sure, Barca without Messi just isn’t the same club...