This is a day most football fans never saw coming. A day where Lionel Messi and Barcelona could part ways.
Multiple reports from Spain have confirmed this evening that Lionel Messi wants to leave Barcelona. A club he has been at since he was 13 years old.
He has scored over 700 goals for the Spanish club and has won 33 major trophies, 6 Ballon D’ors and has established himself as arguably the best footballer to ever play the game in his time there. His club career has been full of success, but the last year has seen Barcelona go down a road that Messi and Barcelona fans are not used to, so is he right to want out?
It was on the 10th April 2018, where Barcelona failed to qualify for the semi finals of the Champions League, after a favourable 4-1 lead, that questions were starting to be asked. This was quickly regarded as a “one off” and Barcelona looked like they were returning to familiar ways and sealed the La Liga title early the following season.
However, what followed would be only the start of Barcelona’s woes. On the 7th of May 2019, Barcelona found themselves in a similar position to last years Champions League campaign, a 3 goal lead going into the second leg against a injury hit Liverpool side. But this time it was to reach the final.
Liverpool made a miraculous comeback to beat the Spanish side 4-0 despite the injuries to two of their unstoppable front three; Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah. With what happened the year before, this was far from an off game, it was a mental block that the Barcelona players faced. It was shown in an inside video of that night Jordi Alba in tears at half time, despite only being 1-0 down. The looks of Messi and Suárez after Gini Wijnaldum slotted in the second goal showed one thing. Fear. They knew what was coming.
It has been since that night that Barcelona just simply have not get back to their usual levels. Their recruitment has been lacking, with high profile names such as; Phillippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann. All signed whilst flying in their previous clubs, have been underwhelming buys so far.
Barcelona fell short of the La Liga title this year to Real Madrid and were embarrassed by a potent Bayern Munich side 8-2 in a single leg Champions league quarter final. A loss unheard of in Barcelona’s history.
It is fair to say with the dismissal of multiple managers since Luís Enrique and such uncertainty around the club, it comes to no surprise that Messi has grown frustrated. We just never thought he would want to end ties with a club where he is Mr Barcelona.
But, where will he go and who can afford him?
Although there are reports that Messi could leave on a free transfer. His wages are what limits his options. Unless the world’s best takes a significant pay cut, there is only a limited amount of clubs that could acquire him. Manchester City and PSG are of course on the very top of that list.
It may seem that Barcelona will always be better off with Messi at the club. Who wouldn’t if they had the best player on the planet? However, it just may be time. It is clear the Ronald Koeman has a massive rebuilding task and Messi’s departure could see players step out of his shadow and perform to the levels that we know they can.
Often when Barcelona buy players it is not just about how good they are, but how well they gel with their superstar, Messi. This is perhaps the reason we have seen so many talented players not make the cut at the Spanish club. The likes of Iniesta, Suarez and Neymar all complimented Messi, which was a major part of why those teams were so successful. We have not seen that chemistry with the players brought in recently.
So might Koeman be ok without Messi? He would still have some outstanding talent in his squad. With a front three of Dembele, Coutinho and Greizmann, the young Ansu Fati and Frankie De Jong. There is of course the need to acquire more players, but this a good basis that Koeman could build from.
Will he stay or will he go? This is definitely not the end of this story and one that will have football fans talking the whole summer.
More on this when it comes, on the Unpredictable Game Blog!