Barcelona announced on Thursday that their captain and talisman, Lionel Messi, would be leaving the club due to financial problems. Messi, who has been at the club since 2000, will not sign a new contract after his current deal had expired in June.
“Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish Liga regulations). As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled. FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life,” the club said in a statement.
It was only last month that Barcelona advanced talks with Messi over a new five-year deal to see him at the club till 2026. The deal was supposed to see Messi stay on with his boyhood club on reduced wages instead of a two-year extension. But due to La Liga’s financial fair play regulations, that deal seems to have fallen flat, Barcelona’s spending was over €600 million before the Covid pandemic and was reduced to €347m last season. It is to be believed that that figure was further reduced and the reduction meant there was no scope of adjusting Messi’s salary and maintaining the rest of the squad, amongst other things. In Messi’s previous contract, signed in 2017, he reportedly earned $163 million per season.
Messi is set to leave Camp Nou after 18 seasons, 778 appearances, 672 goals, ten league titles, four Champions League trophies, and six Ballon d’Ors. Quite simply put, there will never be another one like him.
The relationship between Messi and Barca has been on edge for quite some time now, with Messi publicly announcing his desire to leave the club back in August 2020. Although an agreement was reached at that point, it seems like the Argentine has had enough. Messi had been vocal about his displeasure with how the club was being run on and off the pitch. The initial 2020 announcement had come shortly after Barcelona’s 2-8 loss to Bayern Munich in that season’s Champions League quarterfinal, which not only marked one of the worst days of his career at the club but also had capped off a title-less season for Barcelona, first since 2007-08. Off the pitch, the Argentine had spoken out about his dissatisfaction with some of the administrational decisions at Barcelona, including his displeasure with the club directors. Messi, who had criticized the then sporting director Éric Abidal, saw Abidal leave a week before Messi’s public announcement. Due to apparent loopholes and legal actions, which Messi decided not to take against his boyhood club, Messi stayed on for what would be his final season with Barcelona.
The question that arises now is, where will Lionel Messi be playing as the football season commences in a few weeks’ time? Given the coronavirus scenario, even the biggest clubs have had to keep a check on their spendings. With most clubs being already busy in the middle of the transfer window and having spent large amounts on players, there really aren’t too many options left for the 34-year-old. Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City remain two of his best options and probably two of the only clubs that can afford the Argentine. It will be interesting to see if Messi reunites with Pep Guardiola, given that City is already preparing a bid for England captain Harry Kane and recently purchased Jack Grealish from Aston Villa for £100 million on a six-year deal. Messi’s options aren’t too many in England apart from Manchester City, although Chelsea could have an outside chance, and given their European success, it might be a bonus to draw the little magician. His most likely destination, though, lies in France, reuniting with his former teammate Neymar. PSG, along with City, are one of the only clubs that can afford Messi’s wages, and the opportunity to play with his ex-Barcelona strike partner and friend will attract Messi more towards going to Paris.
Wherever Messi ends up, one thing is for sure, with the Argentine leaving Barcelona, it is the end of an era at Camp Nou, losing the greatest ever to play for the Blaugrana.