Having dedicated 21 years of his life to Barcelona, Lionel Messi has finally left Camp Nou, owing to the financial predicament the Blaugrana have gotten themselves into. The Catalan side's enormous wage bill grossly exceeds La Liga's Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, with a massive €187m-cut still needed to prevent any further complications.
Even after agreeing to substantial salary reductions with a number of veterans, including Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, Barcelona are yet to register their recent incoming transfers. Lionel Messi recently became the first casualty of this state, after a verbal agreement between the two parties failed to materialize due to regulations framed by La Liga.
Lionel Messi and life after Barcelona
Despite the little Argentine becoming the most lucrative free agent in the history of football, not many top clubs have inquired about his potential signing. The usual suspects, Manchester City, and Paris Saint-Germain, were the clear frontrunners to land Lionel Messi's signature until the Cityzens' €118m acquisition of Jack Grealish. The former Aston Villa talisman will be donning the number 10 jersey at the Etihad next season, as confirmed by Pep Guardiola.
All the signs point to a reunion between Lionel Messi and his former comrade Neymar as cash-laden PSG are the only side in present times who can realistically afford the forward's monstrous wage demands. With a new chapter in France just moments away from commencing, let's take a look at some of Lionel Messi's significant first as well as last experiences with Barcelona:
#1 Appearances for Barcelona
The match that changed football, Lionel Messi made his debut for Barcelona in a La Liga clash against cross-town rivals Espanyol on October 16, 2004. He came off the bench in the 82nd minute, replacing first-team mainstay Deco in a game that ended 1-0, in favor of the opposition.
His appearance on the night made Lionel Messi the youngest player ever to defend the Blaugrana colors on-field in an official competition. Even though the record has since been broken twice, firstly by Bojan Krkic, followed by its current-holder Ansu Fati, getting an opportunity to represent his boyhood club at the tender age of 17 years and three months, goes on to show the faith Barcelona had in the youngster's abilities.
Technically, Messi had already stepped onto the pitch as a senior squad member in 2003, playing a friendly match against Jose Mourinho's Porto, the said game was considered to be unofficial. He subsequently made his continental debut against Shakhtar Donetsk in the 04/05 season, a UCL match that Barcelona went on to lose 2-0.
Fast forward 17 years and 777 official games for the Catalan giants, Lionel Messi played his ultimate game, contracted to the club of his dreams, on May 16, 2021, just one month before his 34th birthday. Similar to his first game, Barcelona lost their battle against Celta Vigo in a meaningless league match, since the Blaugrana had already been knocked out of the title race.
He was left out for the last game of the season against Eibar, who were stuck at the foot of the league at the time. Therefore, the 1-2 home defeat to Los Celestes unexpectedly turned out to be Lionel Messi's last game for Barcelona ever.
A heart-breaking 1-1 draw in Paris, which eliminated the five-time Champions League winners from the 20/21 edition of the UCL, proved to be the Argentine's final European game with the Spanish giants. He scored his team's solitary goal in a 5-2 aggregate loss in the round of 16 stage, banging in a belter from 35 yards out.