The Winners and Losers In The Messi – Barcelona Summer Saga

Lionel Messi will stay with Barcelona. The soap opera is over. The 33-year-old world star announced that he will not leave the only club of his life in an exclusive interview with

But Messi is staying with a sorrowful heart and has made it very clear. He is not leaving only because the release clause in his contract wouldn’t allow him to do so and La Pulga decided it was better not to engage in a legal battle with Barcelona. “Barca gave me everything and I gave it everything. I know that it never crossed my mind to take Barca to court,”  Messi said in his interview with

Messi has a contract with Barcelona expiring in 2021, whose buyout clause was set at 700M euros – an astronomical sum that no club could realistically afford, no matter whether their name is Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, or even Inter.

The contract included an option allowing Messi to leave for free before the last season, provided that such a decision was communicated before June 10. But the Messi entourage, led by his father and agent Jorge, claimed that since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the season to extend much later than its natural ending, the June 10 deadline was no longer valid as a “season end” mark.

Such as interpretation was brutally rejected by Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu – the main villain in this summer movie, at least in the eyes of the Messis: Those who want Messi need to pay for him. La Liga sided with the Blaugrana chairman, surely terrified at the idea of losing another top star after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure for Turin.

The only way out of the stalemate would have been a sort of a gentleman agreement that was nowhere in sight, as both parts rather seemed ready to unleash their armies of lawyers.

But then, Leo Messi took a step back.

I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not,” he said. “Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for La Liga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season. And this is the reason why I am going to continue in the club.

President Bartomeu thus won the power battle and managed to retain the crown jewel of his club for at least 10 more months. But, is there any real winner in this summer saga that made football fans from the whole world catch their breath as one of the most sensational transfers ever seemed ready to materialize?

The President surely got what he wanted. At the end of the day, he showed who’s the boss by urging Messi to simply stick to a contract he had signed. Contracts don’t go by interpretation. Romanticism aside, that’s how business work, and Josep Maria Bartomeu is, first and foremost, the chairman of a company. By forcing Leo Messi to stay, he is protecting one of Barcelona’s main assets or at least preventing him from walking away for free.

Still, Bartomeu is at the end of his tenure and he is not set to go down in history as one of the most beloved Blaugrana presidents. Barcelona’s next presidential elections will be held in 2021 and he has already served for two mandates. His track record was already controversial as he will be remembered as the president who led the club to three disastrous Champions League eliminations in a row – including the last one, a shocking 2-8 loss to Bayern Munich that ultimately triggered Messi’s outburst.

From now on, Bartomeu will also be the president who led Leo Messi to consider leaving Barcelona. The pair will need to coexist for at least 10 more months, like a couple who broke up and has no choice but to continue leaving in the same apartment. This doesn’t look good and, in any case, few could have imagined that the relationship between the six-time Ballon d’Or and his beloved club would become so strained – despite Messi’s declaration of love for the Blaugrana colors.

This simply should not have happened and the Barcelona president has a degree of responsibility in that as La Pulga billed Bartomeu’s tenure simply as “a disaster” and his hostility for the president goes far beyond contract interpretations.

But Leo Messi didn’t end well either. The Barcelona captain lost much more than his battle to leave the club. Messi once again appeared hesitant, emotional, and prone to change his mind. His decision to leave Barca might have been lingering in his mind for long, but the timing with which it came out – right after the Champions League disaster with Bayern – reminded of his sudden decision to retire from Argentina when the Selección lost a Copa America Final to Chile.

It looked once again like a decision taken and made public on the wake of emotion and disappointment, rather than a calculated conclusion. Perhaps if Messi realized that leaving for free was simply not possible and that his release clause made it impossible for any club to sign him, he would have been more cautious in making his intentions clear to the public. Or, if a legal battle was the only option for him to leave, then be it.

But Messi ultimately opted to step back which – aside from any economical consideration – may be the worst solution for all. For him, who will need to play one more season in a club that he doesn’t fancy anymore. For the club and their president, who appeared as the villains with no gratitude for their legend who asked to leave. For the Barcelona supporters, many of whom felt betrayed as Messi seemed ready to leave a sinking ship – once again failing to act as the leader he was meant to be.

All things considered, there seems to be only one winner in this end-of-summer saga. La Liga championship will still feature Leo Messi among its participants as it prevented the risk of him joining the Premier League. Manchester City was billed as the most likely destination for the departing Messi and his landing on the English shores would have been a hard blow to La Liga’s visibility and prominence among the top European leagues.

Messi will thus remain in Spain – much to the joy of the local TV broadcasters – but it remains to be seen how his motivation and drive will be affected by the aftermath of a saga that ultimately burst like a soap bubble but left a few scars on all participants.