3 reasons why Lionel Messi could leave Barcelona at the end of the season
Lionel Messi is facing one of the most testing times of his career. While there has been success on the pitch, the Holy Grail of European football – the Champions League has proven elusive over the last 4 years. Despite winning 3 La Liga titles and 7 other cup competitions over the last 4 years, instability around the club and failures in Champions League has caused a tense environment around the club.
Messi’s current contract ends in 2021 and he has not yet renewed it. Further, due to a clause in the current contract, he can walk out for free at the end of the season. While it looks quite improbable that Messi would leave the club where he’s been forever, fresh circumstances threaten to make it a possibility. Despite Barcelona’s best efforts to renew his contract, he holds all the cards and it must be recollected ours that he was close to an exit following tax fraud cases. He is on record about the hard time he had with the taxmen,
"It was not because of a reason linked to football but a personal one. I experienced a difficult moment (with the Spanish tax authorities, 5 years ago), but I succeeded in moving past it thanks to the support of people in Barcelona and the club. It allowed me to continue here. It is just that the moment that I announced that, I did not feel comfortable in Spain, nothing more. "
Let's delve into 3 reasons that might tempt Messi to leave the only club he has played for:
#1 Messy club
The club’s internal strife maybe taking its toll on Messi. Messi is Barcelona’s greatest ever player and probably football’s too. But he too is vulnerable to false blemish. Eric Abidal (Sporting Director of Barcelona) in a recent interview blamed the players for the sacking of Valverde.
“Many players weren’t satisfied or working hard and there was also an internal communication problem.”
To Messi, who has always been publicly defending his manager, Abidal’s interview was a direct attack on his integrity. Messi had to clear the air that he didn’t just defend his boss publicly, he also stood by him till the very end. But the fact that he publicly condemned the sporting director shows that relationships are quite fractured at Barcelona.
"Those in charge of sporting direction should also face up to their responsibilities and above all take charge of their own decisions. I think that when you talk about players, you should give names because otherwise you are tainting everyone's name and feeding rumours that spread and are not true." ~ Messi on Abidal
Add to this the Neymar transfer saga and mis-happenings in the transfer market over the past few years, Barça are a very messy club now.
#2 For a fresh challenge elsewhere
It is well known that Messi has wanted a change of scenery only once in the last 20 years, during the tax fraud case. Rumours surfaced in 2017 that Messi wanted to reunite with Pep Guardiola, director of football Txiki Bergiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano. This could be a possible change of scenery for Messi if he wanted a fresh challenge.
Messi and Barcelona enjoyed incredible success under Guardiola and he maybe tempted to join his old boss. Barcelona are in a crisis now and Messi may not want to stay for another rebuilding process.
While Messi has always been the focal point at Barcelona, they were rarely as reliant on him as they are now. Ever since Neymar left Barcelona, Barcelona has been over-reliant on Messi for goals.
In 2016-17 Barcelona scored a whopping 116 goals, out of which Messi had 37 goals and 9 assists, a direct hand in 46 goals. In 2017-18 Messi again had a direct hand in 46 goals ( 34 goals + 12 assists) out of the 99 goals that Barcelona scored. In 2018-19 Messi contributed to 49 goals (36 goals + 13 assists) to the total 90 scored by Barcelona in the league.
As we can see, Messi’s output to pretty much the same, but the ratio of his contribution has increased drastically due to fewer goals scored by other team mates.
At 32, Messi has shouldered the burden of Barcelona for too long now, with very few years left at the top level, Messi may want to play alongside a more potent attack (which explains his push for Neymar). Being the only world-beater in the team will only burn him out and Messi may want to spend the last few great years elsewhere. Messi parting ways from Barcelona after 20 long years may be quite unlikely, but the turmoil in the club may force him to change his mind.
Published 06 Feb 2020, 15:16 IST