When the Lion Roars: Lionel Messi’s tussle with Barcelona

Yemi Babalola* writes on the ongoing tussle between Lionel Messi and Barcelona on the star player’s intention to leave the club that discovered, nurtured and brought the Argentine footballer to global fame and immense wealth

It is no longer news that Lionel Andrés Messi, who is arguably the world’s best football player, has made known to Barcelona that he wants to exit the club. Messi was said to have sent a fax to the club’s management expressing his desire to leave the Spanish side. Barcelona on their part have said Messi can only leave should a buyer pay his €700 million buyout clause.

However, there is a reported early termination option available in Messi’s contract which was only to be exercised if he communicates his desire to leave the club by the end of the current season which was supposed to be 31 May. But due to the COVID-19 effect on football and sports calendar generally this year, the player’s representatives are set to argue that the deadline should be set to 31 August as a result of the adjournment of the 2019–20 season.

If both sides cannot come to agreeable terms, then this looks like a battle that would be drawn out between both parties.

The marriage between Messi and Barcelona is one that seems so perfect and has been fruitful over time. However, it seems to be upsetting for the player in recent times.

Taking a quick trip down memory lane to evaluate how the club and player found themselves in the current state of discord. Messi was signed as a young teenager to the Barcelona youth academy, they also helped in funding his growth hormone deficiency he got diagnosed with at the age of 10. His talent was undeniable to the Barcelona hierarchy who struggled to find a way to sign a foreign player that young.

Having impressed at the youth level for Barcelona where he was an integral part of Barcelona’s greatest youth side. He was integrated into the club’s first team side at the age of 16 and has been a major part of their success story since 2003.

From 2003 till date Messi has scored over 400 goals for the club, won 10 domestic league titles with the team and they have been 5 times runners-up in the La Liga. Also during this period, Barcelona has won the UEFA Champions League 4 times, the UEFA Super Cup 3 times, the FIFA Club World Cup 3 times, Supercopa de España 8 times and Copa del Rey 6 times.

Individually, to mention a few, Messi has won the most FIFA Ballon d’Or awards (6), he is the most FIFA World Player of the Year award recipient with 6 wins and he has broken so many football records both domestically, continentally and globally.

The Bayern Munich 8-2 thrashing of Barcelona in the UEFA champions league quarterfinals seems to be the tipping point in Messi’s decision to quit the Spanish side.

Though some other factors also look to have contributed to this move by the player. One of which no doubt is the exit of Pep Guardiola and the death of Tito Villanova. It seems like the board have struggled to get a nice enough fit who could manage the players ego and deliver trophies for Barcelona.

The recruitment of players also has not helped matters, for Messi to excel as much as he has been known to, he has always had the perfect fit in the manager and supporting squad members, as can be seen in the Guardiola era.

Messi has witnessed and endured the loss of club greats and legends to Barcelona and who have not been appropriately replaced in key positions on the field. Legends such as Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta departed, and his friend Dani Alves was forced out of the club and these players were vital in the success of Messi on the pitch.

For a while it seemed like he found that support in Neymar and Suarez but since the exit of Neymar it was clear Ousmane Dembele nor recently brought in Antoine Griezmann would not be that fit Messi needs in the attack line. This makes the burden and expectations on the club lie on Messi’s shoulders; he is no doubt talented but even a giant gets tired and that is when his teammates are supposed to man up.

The tax fraud case though concluded now also could be one of the reasons spurring Messi’s decision as his brand and identity was brought to question, despite explaining he was not managing his finances and only plays football. Also, in the last three seasons Barcelona have been embarrassingly knocked out of the champions league, making it seem like the club is lacking a sporting direction and project.

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Messi has dropped the gauntlet and drawn the first blood, it remains to be seen if Barcelona would let Messi go without a fight, which seems highly unlikely. The fans have been showing their displeasure and pleading with their star player and captain to remain and instead asking for the resignation of the club’s president.

Messi whom many have always believed would finish his career at Barcelona has now come up with this exit decision at 33. This is something he has thought out and Barcelona would need to decide their next move as the Argentine star has refused to show up for his test under the La Liga’s coronavirus protocols.

Jorge Messi, who is Messi’s father and agent, is said to have a meeting on Wednesday with Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu. At this point it is clear both sides have different objectives, with the club wanting Messi to stay and renew his contract, while the player has said he wants to leave.

It remains to be seen if both sides can find a compromise and this situation does not get dirty or distract the club’s focus for the new season.

Yemi Babalola, a Media and Communication student of Technische Universität Ilmenau, Germany, is an intern at the African Courier Media

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