At this altitude, no one can escape it. Not even Lionel Messi. In the circuit’s superstar caste, the Argentinian virtuoso is one of a kind. He does not have the same career construction as Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar or Kylian Mbappé, but it takes more to temper the Spanish press. For some time now, the idea of seeing Messi evolve elsewhere than in Barcelona before closing his chapter in Europe has been gaining ground. Nothing illogical at first sight: time is passing and the end (very short) is getting closer. And then being the man of a club clashes in the landscape. But other elements have come to parasitize the history between the Catalan institution and its genius. Can Messi really leave his cocoon? Here are 3 questions to take stock.
In the immediate future, can we imagine Messi leaving Barcelona?
No Before being taken on board by the sensation press, it is worth remembering what Messi is for Barça. And by extension what Barça is for Messi. The history of the native of Rosario with the Catalan club goes far beyond the framework of sport. Barcelona made Messi. Discovered by former recruiter Carles Rexach, the Argentine could never have become what he is if the Catalan club had not paid for his treatment with growth hormones when he joined Masia at the ‘adolescence.
Messi then made Barcelona. Head of a gondola of an unforgettable generation, the number 10 has taken everything with it by stacking titles, goals and prowess. In short, the link is total. Messi is not just an icon of Barça. Messi is Barça. It is also no coincidence that all the immense players who have passed through this club – from Cruyff (later coached) to Ronaldinho, via Maradona, Xavi, Iniesta, Eto’o or Neymar – all pledged allegiance to the master. “Today obviously my thought is to end here. Especially because we are good there, for what I feel for the club, for this city, for my family who knew everything here, “he said again at the end of 2019.
Has Messi been upset by recent events?
Yes, Lionel Messi may never have gone through such a turbulent period in his history in Barcelona. The first half of 2010 was the year of all successes. The second was much more contrasted. One element that has come up often in Pulga outings in recent years: chess in the Champions League. Usually discreet about his ambitions, Messi has seen his status change over the years. Today, he is the captain of a ship that pitched too often to his liking.
Recruitment, precisely, is another sensitive point. Just like the recent turmoil. The final sprint of La Liga started since the resumption of football adds to these tensions, since the end of the season of Barça is turning sour. Struggling on the European scene, Barcelona, which is about to lose its title of champion, is no longer even sovereign in Spain. This sports fiasco finally takes place against a backdrop of controversy, where the name of Messi is systematically linked to the unhappiness of Antoine Griezmann. Rookie flagship of last summer, the French world champion is next to his pumps. It did not take more to come out on the theories on the very political role of Messi within the club.
Should Barça send positive signals to Messi for the future?
Yes If it is obviously too early to imagine the end of the story, the Catalan leadership will have to calm the game. Without passing over the institution, Messi remains the most influential character. Josep Maria Bartomeu knows this. Its ambivalent position during the Neymar series is the perfect illustration. Before the interruption of football, the president of Barça also recalled his plan: let Messi choose the time of the end, but in Barcelona and nowhere else.
“He will end up at Barça whenever he wants. His relationship with us is forever. He still has a long future here with us. Let’s take advantage of him,” he said confidently during the media gala Mundo Deportivo. But there is no smoke without fire. When the Cadena Ser announces a departure from Messi at the end of its contract in the summer of 2021 – which would be a real disaster -, it is yet another warning that is launched to the Catalan management. Men may change by then, at all levels. But Barça would be well advised not to repeat its mistakes.