Leo Messi and The Times That Are a-Changin’ at Barcelona

So, let us tell you a story. Lionel Messi may leave Barcelona. Okay, let’s repeat it. La Pulga Atomica wants to leave Barca, and he wants to do so after 20 years in Blaugrana. Big stuff, right? Yes, pretty big and almost impossible to visualize. Can you imagine Lionel with a different jersey? But the real question is, can Messi see himself wearing different colors? 

Honestly, it comes pretty hard to contextualize Messi away from the Camp Nou or, if you wish, to watch a match at the Camp Nou without Lionel. Like Bob Dylan in his song The Times They Are a-Changin’ we may tend to think that once you pick a path, you may get stuck in there. Lionel Messi and Barca picked themselves up 20 years ago. 


Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini’s story in Barcelona started in September 2000, when the Messi family arranged a trial with the Blaugrana. At the time, Lionel was 13 years old and, on the day of the trial, he impressed the first team director Charly Rexach so much, that he wanted to sign him right away. After some talking and discussion on the 14th December 2000, Rexach made Messi sign his first contract with Barcelona on a paper napkin. 


From there, the story is pretty much known. Messi rise at the club has brought shine and trophies: 6 Ballon D’Ors, 6 Best FIFA Player, 10 La Liga, 4 Champions Leagues, 6 Copa del Reys, 3 FIFA Club World Cup, 8 Spanish Super Cups, 3 UEFA Super Cups, 1 Under 20 World Cup, 1 Olympic Gold Medal, and 2 UEFA Best Player. On top of these, Lionel has set the record for the most of goals scored and assist served in the Spanish Liga.


So, after all these trophies, what is really going at the Catalan club? It is now of public domain that Captain Messi has informed Barcelona that he wishes to leave the club in this transfer market session. Yes, guys, he did it: He told new coach Ronald Koeman that he doesn’t feel part of the Barca project anymore. He even sent a certified fax. He put words on paper and literally deepened the turmoil after a gloomy season and just a few days after the embarrassing 2-8 loss to Bayern Munich in the last Champions League.

Messi after Barcelona defeated in Champions
Messi felt hopeless after Barcelona were crushed by Bayern Munich in Champions League

The receipt of such a fax was also confirmed by Barcelona on Tuesday as they informed the Associated Press of Messi’s desire to leave the club. Of course, Barcelona’s wishes are clashing with Lionel’s. The club would love to keep the Argentine player, and they would like him to finish his career there. Such different views may trigger a legal battle as Barcelona may not accommodate Messi his desire to leave – not at his conditions, at least. 

The focus is on the release clause contained in Messi’s contract, which expires in 2021 and set the fee to be paid by any club for an early release at 700M euros.


But why would Messi like to leave Barcelona only now? Well, that is not easy to say from outside. However, we know that Lionel’s request to move away from Barcelona came a few hours after the Spanish media reported on new coach Koeman informing Luis Suarez that he was not part of his project. In other words, Koeman wants Suarez to leave the club.


So, let’s have some fun here. The Barcelona season was not only gloomy but also ended with the humiliating defeat in the Champions League. Consequently, Barca had no other choice but to sack their coach Quique Sétien and hire Koeman. The Dutch manager talked to his players and launched the first bomb: Suarez is out. 

Luis Suarez’s reported possible destinations are Ajax and, moreover, InterMiami. The Uruguayan has been in talks with InterMiami to investigate a possible move to the States. David Beckham’s MLS franchise is getting pretty ambitious and signing Suarez, who arrived at the Nou Camp in July 2014 for around € 82 Million, would help boost their image.

But, guys, do not stop your imagination. It has also been reported that after Luis Suarez, Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal, Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic, and French center-back Samuel Umtiti were informed that they are no longer needed. I think you can call it a Revolution. Due to this “revolution,” Messi decided to express his desire to leave the club, gaining support from many former Barca players’  including ex-captain Carles Puyol:

The situation is pretty rusty especially considering that Barca, after 12 years of successes in a row, closed the last season without trophies. While some pointed their fingers at the squad being “not professional,” others blamed president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who created a tense environment among the players. On that note, former president Joan Laporta has no doubt and blames Bartomeu for the stance taken by the Argentinian as he tweeted:

Bartomeu and his Board must resign immediately. They have been undermining the morale of #Messi to save themselves from the economic and sporting turmoil they have created. If they resigned, there would still hope that Messi would stay at #Barça.

However, regardless of what triggered Lionel Messi’s decision, facts say that he is arguably the most significant active football player and indeed among the greatest in football history. Thinking about him leaving the club by activating a clause on his contract would not only “kill” the romanticism of the relationship between him and Barca, but also open to new and exciting scenarios. 


Should the Blaugrana not be able to fix this, Messi would not lack estimators and options. Two clubs above all may be able to sign him: Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Rumors from London suggest that Lionel may have already called his old mentor Pep Guardiola with who he already won 2 Champions League, 3 Liga, and other trophies. However, in the waiting room, there are also PSG, where Messi would rejoin his friend Neymar and other candidates like Chelsea, Juventus, even Real Madrid and Inter, which has maintained an open dialogue with Messi’s family. 


Only time will shed some more light on the matter. But, as of today, it seems unlikely that Lionel Messi will stay at Barca as long as Bartomeu remains in charge as the president.