Barcelona vs Messi: the winners, losers and intrigue surrounding the summer’s biggest story
When Bayern Munich trashed Barcelona 8-2 in the quarterfinal of the Champions League, it signified the lowest ebb in the Catalan club’s illustrious history, but things went from bad to worse just nine days later.
August 25, 2020, was the date the unthinkable happened, as Lionel Messi officially submitted a Burofax to the club, indicating his decision to terminate his contract with the Blaugrana and leave Camp Nou for free.
This was undoubtedly the biggest football news in a long while and it got everybody talking, with no fewer than two million tweets relating to the bombshell tweeted in two hours.
Given his history with Barcelona, it was taken for granted that Lionel Messi would end his career at the club but various reasons including disillusionment with the board and consecutive years of Champions League heartbreak led to the groundbreaking decision.
Barcelona vs Messi was the civil war nobody wanted and despite claiming that he reserved the right to terminate his contract, the club insisted that his release clause of €700m remained active and any club willing to sign their talisman would have to pay the full value.
After several weeks of the impasse that included Messi refusing to turn up for pre-season testing and training, the Argentine international has finally reneged on his decision and has agreed to see out the final year of his contract with Barcelona.
In an emotional exclusive interview with Goal.com, the 33-year-old stated several reasons for choosing to remain, including his love for the club and unwillingness to destabilize his family, while also laying the blame for the miscommunication at the foot of the president.
It is undebatable that had he not toed this line, the issue would have required a court ruling and regardless of the outcome, Barcelona vs Messi is a case that would have tarnished his iconic image with the Catalan giants.
Lionel Messi is the single most important player in Barcelona’s illustrious history and even if he does not end his career with the club, he deserves a fitting sendoff at a jam-packed Camp Nou, similar to what we witnessed for both Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.
It would have been the highest disservice and anticlimax if the legend had departed on controversial terms, without fans to bid him farewell.
With the dust now settled, attention would turn to how the Blaugrana would approach the future and pick up the pieces from the disaster that was last season, while Lionel Messi would attempt to have the swansong farewell that his illustrious career deserves.
Barcelona vs Messi: who were the winners and losers from the final decision?
Messi’s decision to remain at Barcelona came as a relief to a lot of people, while others would have rather seen him leave the club.
The most obvious winner from him remaining with the Blaugrana is the club itself as it has been clear for all to see that Barcelona have been on a downward spiral for the last few years.
Despite winning a couple of league titles, Barcelona have been horribly beneath par and their deficiencies have been woefully exposed on the continent, with the trashing by Bayern Munich just the latest in a long line of Champions League embarrassments.
Indeed, their captain has been their saving grace on more than one occasion and without Messi, the ordinariness of Barcelona becomes very shockingly glaring.
With him in the side, though they might not be favorites for the trophies this season, they would fancy their chances of making an impact due to the extraordinary abilities of their talisman.
Another clear winner is new coach Ronald Koeman. Despite reports suggesting that the Dutchman had a meeting with Messi telling him that his ‘privileges’ were over, the former Everton manager would be best advised to build his team around the Argentine international.
He makes any coach’s job easier and has promised to give his all to the Barcelona cause, Koeman would have to put aside any differences with the Rosario native and he is all but guaranteed to guide the side to a trophy or two at the end of the season.
The decision also gives the Barcelona board some breathing space. Despite the current animosity that exists between supporters and management, tensions would have risen to unprecedented levels if Messi had departed the club.
For all his shortcomings, Josep Maria Bartomeu would not like to be known as the ‘president that allowed Messi to leave Barcelona’ and his decision to remain at the club ensures that Bartomeu would no longer be at the helm next summer, with presidential elections slated to hold in March.
However, it would not be smooth sailing for everybody associated with the Catalans, as there are some who are not precisely beneficiaries of Messi’s decision to remain with Barcelona.
Antoine Griezmann might have been secretly relishing the opportunity to become the star man at the club, having enjoyed a similar standing for five years with Atletico Madrid, as well as the French national team.
With Lionel Messi present, it is next to impossible for this to happen and everything revolves around the current Ballon d’Or holder and rightly so, given all that he has achieved with the club.
Griezmann had a mixed debut season following his mega-money arrival and there were several occasions where he looked out of place, with Messi occupying his preferred position on the field.
The number 10’s departure would have opened a world of opportunity for him as the marquee name in attack and a second chance to relaunch his Barcelona career but this position of authority would have to wait for at least one more season.
Another player who would have been relishing a clean slate is Philippe Coutinho, with the Brazilian international having fallen from grace since his club-record arrival from Liverpool in January 2018.
Although Koeman has stated his intention to utilize the 28-year-old effectively, the presence of Messi could limit the impact of the former Inter Milan man.
When news of Messi’s decision to leave Barcelona became public, all attention subsequently turned to where his next club would be.
There were several clubs linked with his services but Manchester City were identified as concrete favorites, offering a reunion with Pep Guardiola.
The 49-year-old was responsible for molding Messi into the world-beater he is today and they each hold the other in high esteem and remain in close contact to this day.
Despite his hefty wages and the COVID-19 pandemic, Manchester City would have found a way to balance the books and sign the Argentine, but their dream signing would have to wait for at least one ore year.
The Cityzens are desperate to get their hands on a maiden Champions League trophy and it is for this reason that they appointed Pep Guardiola in 2016 but the Catalan has not found success either.
Despite his unprecedented dominance domestically, continental glory continues to elude him, with last season’s elimination by Lyon arguably the nadir.
Messi’s arrival would have automatically changed his fortunes and the reunion of master and student would have tipped the scale massively in City’s favor.
As it happens, this dream would have to wait and with just one year left on Guardiola’s contract with Manchester City, it looks increasingly unlikely that he would manage Messi again.
Other clubs who looked to benefit from the Barcelona vs Messi situation included Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, as well as MLS clubs but they would all have to wait for at least one year for any potential transfer to be made.
As for Lionel Messi himself, things are a little less straightforward. On a personal level, there are both positives and negatives from his decision to remain with Barcelona.
The most obvious is that he would have to bear the burden of expectation for another year and while he might still be up to the task, as the last few years have shown, there is only so much that he can do by himself.
Underperforming teammates surround him and his dream to win a fifth Champions League title with his beloved club looks highly unlikely.
There is also the not so small matter of Koeman’s meeting with him and it is less than ideal for Messi to spend his last year at the club under the management of someone who does not accord him as much reverence as he deserves.
Of course, things could yet end positively for Messi, as the presidential elections next year offers the chance of a new era and if things go accordingly, a new president could come in to steady the ship.
Presidential candidate Victor Font is widely regarded as the forerunner to succeed Bartomeu and the 48-year-old has stated his intention to bring back Xavi Hernandez to coach Barcelona.
The current Al Saad manager was approached for the job after the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde in January but he rejected the offer, preferring to start on a clean slate.
If Xavi does return to Barcelona, Lionel Messi could have a change of heart and decide to play under his friend and former teammate provided that the club gets the sporting decisions right.
It should be remembered that this is not the first time Messi has considered leaving Camp Nou, although none of the previous attempts were ever as significant as this.
Fans of the club were understandably shaken by the news, but they can bear no ill-grudge against their adopted son – he has earned that right – and the six-time Ballon d’Or winner only needs to give his all as he promised and this would be a forgotten matter.
Barcelona vs Messi threatened to become an all-out war but thankfully, commonsense has prevailed and football fans can continue to enjoy the magic of the Argentine maestro at Camp Nou while giving him the chance to get the swansong that his iconic career deserves.
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