Barcelona shocked the football world on Thursday evening by announcing that Argentine great Lionel Messi would not be continuing his glittering career at the Nou Camp. Lionel Messi leaves Barcelona is a headline not many people expected to come so soon, but Barcelona must think of a way to recover without the Argentine.
Here, we answer the key questions as to how this astonishing story came about, and we also look ahead to what it means for the rest of Messi’s playing career and where he might end up next season.
Lionel Messi Leaves Barcelona: What We Know So Far
Did Messi Walk Away From Barcelona?
The most important question to answer right away is whether Messi himself initiated this split by rejecting Barcelona’s offer of a new contact. As the Catalan giants’ official statement on the matter confirmed, the answer to that question is clear: No he did not.
Last summer, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner attempted to walk away from Barcelona on a free transfer, believing he had the right to leave for nothing.
One year on, however, and the situation is entirely different. Having been in Brazil with the Argentina national side in their triumphant Copa America campaign this summer, Messi was back in Barcelona this week to sign a new long-term deal on a salary reduced by 50% as a result of the club’s crippling financial difficulties and the La Liga salary cap.
Both parties were ready to announce Messi’s stay in due course as expected, and the man himself was said to be preparing for Barcelona’s traditional captain’s speech detailing the team’s on-pitch ambitions for the forthcoming season.
The situation then suddenly turned sideways as La Liga intervened, ruling that the new contract Messi was about to sign is still not financially viable for the club, leading to Thursday’s bombshell announcement.
Why Did La Liga Intervene?
The important detail here is that La Liga has imposed strict salary caps on its clubs ahead of the new season. Evidently, no club is exempt from this, but Barcelona did believe their new contract proposal to Messi had allowed them to comply.
The club’s new signings, such as former Premier League stars Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero, have all adhered to this newly-implemented wage structure. Messi was planning on doing the same by accepting a 50% pay cut.
However, this is where the Argentine’s previous deal comes into play. Messi had been earning an astronomical weekly salary up until the expiry of his contract at the end of last season. Even paying him half of what he used to earn would represent an eye-watering annual expenditure for Barcelona to be sanctioning.
La Liga stepped in at the last minute, deciding that the new contract proposal was still not sufficiently responsible according to their new rules and the way in which Barcelona’s current financial state factors into them.
Barcelona themselves feel that they have been harshly treated, and have pinned the blame firmly on La Liga’s shoulders for the current situation. The club also feel that the absence of salary caps in other top European leagues means other clubs can take advantage of them, leading to an uneven playing field.
Lionel Messi Leaves Barcelona: Are PSG Waiting in the Wings?
Before answering that question, we must first consider whether it is now impossible for Barcelona and Messi to figure out another way to secure the future of their now-former player.
This prospect has now been categorically ruled out by the club’s president, Joan Laporta, who said: “We had an agreement with Messi to sign a five-year contract but [only] paying him two years’ salary. Leo agreed to the contract; it was accepted. We were convinced it was a good agreement for Financial Fair Play, but it wasn’t allowed by La Liga.”
Laporta also added that all parties must now “move on” after the collapse of the deal. Lionel Messi will really be playing for a new club next season as he leaves Barcelona.
It is now a question of which club that will be. France’s Paris Saint-Germain already boast the world’s most-expensive players in Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, and it is no secret that they would love to add Messi to their star-studded squad.
A recent photograph of Messi socialising with PSG players while on holiday has done the rounds on social media, with the likes of former Barcelona striker Gary Lineker weighing in on the debate by suggesting that Paris is to be Messi’s new location.
Transfer expert Fabrizio Romano has also had his say, revealing that Les Parisiens opened talks with Messi’s entourage as soon as the news of his Barcelona exit became public.
As the dust settles on this earth-shattering footballing development, something has already become clear: this fast-developing story still has a long way left to run.
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