It was always thought that the Argentine would end his top-flight club career in Catalunya but the stage is now set for a bitter court battle
Lionel Messi wants to leave Barcelona. It’s a statement that is both shocking and unsurprising.
Even after the humiliating 8-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich, many refused to even contemplate such a scenario.
Deco said he struggled to imagine Barca without Messi. Samuel Eto’o quipped that if his former team-mate did leave, they’d have to change the name of the club.
“Messi is Barcelona,” the Cameroonian told TyC Sports, and it’s certainly felt like that for a long time. He’s more than just the captain; he’s the face of the club, a symbol of the city.
He’s been in Catalunya since he was 13; the belief was that he would end his top-flight career at Camp Nou, his second home.
Messi’s exit has been coming, though.
Sweeping the sentimentality of the situation to one side, his desire to walk away is perfectly understandable.
Barcelona are a mess, a club in utter disarray.
Bartomeu insisted after the Bayern debacle that they were merely suffering from “a sporting crisis – not an institutional crisis.”
That claim only further upset Messi, as it suggested that the players were somehow solely responsible for the situation Barca now find themselves in; that it was only they who were underperforming.
The reason why Barca are now so weak on the field, though, is that they have been run so poorly off it.
Since Bartomeu’s election in 2015, they have wasted nearly €1 billion (£895 million/$1.2bn) on flops and the coronavirus outbreak brutally exposed the club’s perilous financial position, as well as the bitter divide between the boardroom and the dressing room.
During talks over the players’ taking a pay-cut, Messi sensationally claimed that someone within Barcelona was deliberately trying to cast the squad in an unfavourable light via leaks to the press.