After Barcelona endured their first trophyless season in more than a decade, one that culminated in a 2-8 humbling against eventual champions Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, Lionel Messi dropped a bombshell: he expressed his wish to leave his beloved club.
Not too long ago, that seemed like an unthinkable proposition, as Lionel Messi - one of the last vestiges of the true one-club era - has conjured some jaw-dropping numbers for Barcelona over the years.
However, after Barcelona were denied a La Liga three-peat by Real Madrid and suffered a quarter-final exit in the Copa Del Rey last season, Champions League elimination - or rather the manner of it - seemed to be the final straw that broke the camel's back.
In their worst defeat in any competition in more than six decades, all of Barcelona's problems plaguing the club in recent times, but largely papered over by the singular brilliance of Lionel Messi came to the fore. These include their overreliance on the captain, an ageing squad and a creaky defense, to name a few.
Five players Barcelona need to sign to convince Lionel Messi to stay at the club
Barcelona's reliance on Lionel Messi has been such that whenever the diminutive Argentinian has had an off day or is out injured, the club struggles to remain competitive, let alone win games.
With a few other ageing warhorses failing to up the ante and a general dearth of quality players breaking through from the club's famed La Masia academy, the weight of expectations on Lionel Messi had become too much for the player to bear.
Despite having a year left in his contract with the club, Lionel Messi desiring to leave Barcelona was easily evolving to be the biggest story of the summer. While he was convinced to stay on for the 2020-21 season, Lionel Messi is very likely to leave Barcelona in the summer, as the Blaugrana have endured an indifferent start to their current campaign.
However, Lionel Messi could be convinced to stay on at Camp Nou if Barcelona make a few statement signings. On that note, let us have a look at five such players in no particular order.
#5 Luis Suarez
Though this move looks to be in the realms of fanciful thinking at the moment, Barcelona may look to engineer Luis Suarez's return to the Camp Nou next summer if the Uruguayan has a breakthrough debut campaign at Atletico Madrid.
The 33-year-old striker has made a rousing start to his Rojiblancos career, scoring five times in eight La Liga games, to allay any concerns that he has been on the decline.
If he continues his good form for the rest of the season and possibly inspires Atletico to their first La Liga title in six years, Barcelona may think about reuniting Suarez with Messi next campaign.
During his time at Barcelona, Suarez scored almost 200 goals and made over 100 assists - with almost half of them to Lionel Messi - as he struck up one of the most fearsome attacking threesomes with the Argentinian and Neymar (more on him later).
While some may view the return of Suarez to Barcelona as regressive, the move could have footballing merit, as the Uruguayan seemingly has a few good years left in him and could spark Lionel Messi back to form.
#4 Eric Garcia
Former La Masia graduate Eric Garcia was one of Barcelona's transfer targets during the summer, but the move did not materialize - as Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola views the teenager as one of the long-term prospects at the club.
Barcelona require replenishment at the heart of their defense, as Gerard Pique is not getting any younger, has lost pace and has looked too susceptible against pacey attacks.
Garcia could reportedly arrive at Barcelona in January. If that happens, it would be a move in the right direction for the club - one that could return Barcelona to winning ways in major competitions and convince Lionel Messi to stay on beyond the summer.