Should Messi Leave Barca?
Six years ago, FC Barcelona was a magical team at the peak of their powers, with Pep Guardiola the headmaster and Lionel Messi the A-grade student. Today, circumstances are a lot different for the club and for the Argentine, who might barely recognise the team he plays in. With his contract running out and the board making a mess of the recent transfer window, Messi should consider his future! Before you disagree, hear me out…
The world has loved watching Messi grow up and reach a prime that has arguably lasted more than 10 years, but as they say, all good things come to an end. It’s sad but true! The Argentine has inspired Barca to every trophy possible and, because of his displays for the Catalan giants, he’s widely considered the greatest footballer of all time. Despite his 29 trophies and more than 500 goals for the Blaugrana, the forward might find himself rethinking his future, and, in my opinion, he has to! Not because it is my wish to see Messi prove himself elsewhere. That talk is absurd. But rather, for the reason that there seems to be an ugly storm brewing at Barca – one that he doesn’t deserve to be a part of.
Last season it became apparent that change at Barca was needed, but nobody quite anticipated what was to come. Yes, Luis Enrique had announced he’d be leaving Barca come the end of 2016/17, but the general public didn’t seem to be aware of the issues within the club, as it was the front three of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar that grabbed all the headlines. And, understandably so!
The club’s board, led by President Josep Maria Bartomeu, have come under heavy scrutiny in recent weeks, mainly due to how they handled this past transfer window. Neymar, one of the best players in the world, decided to move on to greener pastures, before saying, “I am disappointed with them (Barca board). I spent four years there and was very happy. I began happy, spent four years happy and left happy. But not with them. For me, they shouldn’t be in charge of Barca. Barca deserves much better, and everyone knows this.”
But why was he saying this? Well, for starters, Bartomeu became president after former chief, Sandro Rosell, resigned in 2014, as he was being investigated for fraud in Neymar’s 2013 transfer from Santos. Earlier this year, Rosell was convicted and sent to prison for misappropriation of funds. Bartomeu, the board’s current leader, is extremely close with Rosell.
Despite the legal issues taking centre stage, it’s also the club’s handling of Neymar’s exit to Paris Saint-Germain that had the public in disbelief. At first, Bartomeu strongly denied the 25-year-old would be leaving the club, but weeks later, he was gone. The player that the club had been found guilty of committing a crime, had left.
Barca fans became more enraged when it looked as if the club hadn’t lined up any replacements for the Brazilian, which eventually led to huge bids for Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele and Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho. Yes, they’re both fantastic talents, but it was Barca’s desperation that earned them criticism. The club ended up splashing €105 million (R1.63bn) on 20-year-old Dembele, though there’ve been murmurs from journalists close to the club that he actually cost €150 million (R2.3bn) right off the bat.
After securing the Frenchman’s signature, the club then turned to Coutinho – or did they? Their ‘pursuit’ of the Brazilian has been dubbed false by many sources who’ve followed the story closely, who claim Barca used the press to make it seem as if they were after the player, though they knew Liverpool wouldn’t sell. After Deadline Day, the English club denied ever putting a price tag on Coutinho, following these comments from Barca director Albert Soler, “Liverpool put a price on the player that we wanted. A price of €200 million (R3bn) and we decided we wouldn’t do it.” More lies? It appears so.
Club legend Xavi Hernandez, who served Barca from 1998 until 2015, even came out to publicly slam his former club’s board for their dealings in the recent window, admitting “they’ve fallen asleep”.
Now, with Messi’s contract at the club expiring in 2018, an exit from Barca seems more realistic now than ever. Also, let me point out that he hasn’t put pen to paper on a new contract – something the board said he did in June. Is this really a circus Messi wants to be involved with? Yes, fans are hopeful there’ll soon be a change of board, but it’s also on the field that Messi might not be getting as much enjoyment as he once did.
The team are a far cry from the possession-based side they once were, inspired by Johan Cruyff and mastered by Guardiola. Of course, Ernesto Valverde might attempt to get them back to the Barca of old, but they don’t have the players to do it. Not with an aging Andres Iniesta and an off-form Ivan Rakitic. It simply won’t happen.
Messi could be and should be, tempted by Guardiola’s reported interest at Manchester City, where several former Barca staff members also work. In January, the 30-year-old will be allowed to listen to offers from whoever approaches him, and who knows, perhaps Messi threatening to leave the Catalan club is what it’ll take for a change to actually be made in the club’s hierarchy. Think about it…