For the first time since signing with Barcelona in 2000, Lionel Messi is officially a free agent. These past few seasons, Messi has made his displeasure with the Blaugrana clear. Last season he pushed for an exit, only denied because the clause allowing him to move for free expired. Messi ended up staying with Barcelona, hopeful for success.
Individual success happened, with Messi scoring 38 in all competitions and collecting 14 assists. However, Barcelona only ended up winning one trophy: the Copa del Rey, which is the Spanish cup. Another early Champions League exit occurred, and worse still, Barcelona finished third in La Liga: the lowest since they finished third in the 2007/08 season. This causes a conundrum for Lionel Messi. Does he want to stay at a struggling Barcelona team and assume things will get better? Or will he leave for greener pastures?
Leaving might not be as simple as it would have been a year ago. Reportedly, Messi’s main recruiters were PSG and Manchester City. Both of these teams are coming off of mediocre seasons for their standards.
PSG finished second in Ligue 1, missed out on the Champions League finals after losing to Manchester City, and only won the French cup, the Coupe de France.
Manchester City had been poised for a treble-winning season, taking a massive advantage in the Premier League. They did end up winning the Premier League by some margin, but then crashed out of the FA Cup in the semifinals and proceeded to lose the Champions League final to Chelsea.
Besides, both of these teams have focused their financial attention elsewhere. PSG are doing everything they can to keep Kylian Mbappe from leaving at the end of his contract, and Manchester City have moved on from Messi and now are focusing on the signings of Harry Kane and Jack Grealish.
The realistic scenario is that Messi will probably renew his contract with Barcelona. This is why Joan Laporta returned to Barcelona, and this is why he brought Messi’s Argentina teammate Sergio Aguero with him. Messi is comfortable with the club now that former president Josip Bartomeu is gone, and will likely stay until he retires.
The question should be whether Barcelona can afford to bring him back. The club have massive amounts of debt, and the arrivals of expensive veterans in Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero won’t help that. Messi makes an extraordinary amount of money at Barcelona, one that the club can’t afford to continuously give. Furthermore, many young players like Pedri, Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, Ilaix Moriba, and Carles Aleña have contracts expiring next season. To keep them, Barcelona will have to renew their contracts and likely increase wages.
To return to the golden age of Barcelona, the Blaugrana need to return to focusing on youth. The only way they can do this and keep Messi is by selling players, something Barcelona will be reluctant to do as they wish to win trophies immediately. It will be interesting to see how much Barcelona are willing to give up for their star man.
Whilst Barcelona can (and likely will) keep hold of Messi for a little longer, it’s important to remember that most recent Barcelona legends didn’t spend their whole careers at the club. Xavi Hernandez ended his career in Qatar, Andres Iniesta is still playing in Japan, and Victor Valdes ended his career in England. Heck, Pep Guardiola ended his career in the second tier of Mexico. At some point, like it or not, Barcelona will be forced to move on from Messi.
Where do you think Messi will do?
Image Courtesy of L.F.Salas, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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