The fallout between Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona continues as the season comes close to an end. For months, the topic at the forefront of soccer has been about whether Lionel Messi will commit long-term to Barcelona or force his way out of the club after the 2020-2021 season ends.
Messi has been at the club from the age of 13, debuting with the first team at 16 years old in a friendly match against FC Porto. Since then, he has won nearly every major club trophy and individual accolade, including winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or six times while becoming one of the greatest footballers of all-time during his stint with Barcelona.
However, over the past summer, Messi made it clear to Barcelona’s board of directors that he was unhappy and wanted to leave the club for several reasons. Messi’s biggest complaint is against former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu. According to Bleacher Report, Messi told Bartomeu privately that he wanted to leave the club six months before the news became public. Messi claims that Bartomeu also leaked information to the media, blaming Barcelona’s problems on Messi. Messi eventually won the dispute; on Oct. 27, 2020, Bartomeu stepped down as president after facing criticism from the club and their fans.
It’s also possible that Messi wants out of Barcelona due to the team’s change in transfer targets during the transfer window. In the years where Barcelona dominated the European club competitions, the club focused on developing their academy players: Messi, Xavi Creus, and Andrés Iniesta, just to name a few. In recent years, Barcelona began to compete with other clubs to acquire international star players with premium price tags. Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, Philippe Countinho, and other signings have cost the club millions of Euros. The biggest problem with buying these star players is that they don’t address and solve the team’s issues on the football pitch. This is one reason why Barcelona has struggled in recent European competitions.
Barcelona’s transfer decisions have been questionable. Speaking with the Daily Mail, Messi opened up about his teammate Luis Suarez’s recent departure from the club to league rival Atletico Madrid, who are currently first place in La Liga. Suarez was pivotal to Barcelona’s team, helping them win the Champions League in the 2014-15 season. In the interview, Messi said, “He left for free, paying the remaining years of his contract and he joined a team that fought for the same objectives as us. Unbelievable.”
Despite the team’s early struggles, Barcelona has been able to climb to the fourth position in the La Liga and is competing in the European Champions League, currently sitting atop Group B with a 3-1-2 record. Messi has not spoken about the situation recently and is waiting until the season is over as the club will elect a new president. This vote, according to ESPN, has been postponed to Mar. 7.
This election is crucial if Barcelona is going to try and repair their relationship with Messi as the situation seems to be coming to an end soon. A Messi-Barcelona split would change European football for the foreseeable future. If he were to leave, whichever high-profile team Messi joins would be the heavy favorite to win the Champions League and their domestic cups. Rumour has it that Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain are the favored destinations for Messi if he were to leave Barcelona. This decision would not only greatly impact Messi’s career, but also the sport as a whole.