After an illustrious 21-year career within the Barcelona organization, Lionel Messi’s time with the Spanish club has officially come to an end. La Pulga started his time with the Spanish Titans in 2000, where he spent 3 years in the youth ranks of the team. After a couple years of quality football and juvenile A and B team debuts, Messi finally earned his chance to debut with the first team. 2003 marked the start of a club career nothing short of spectacular. A then 16 year old Lionel Messi debuted against Jose Mourinho’s Porto, during the 75th minute of Barca and Porto’s friendly. No one knew it then, but that debut would lead to a breathtaking career with Barcelona. He would go on to have 778 appearances and 672 goals with Barca. Messi would win 6 Ballon d’Or, 10 league titles, 7 Copa del Rey, 7 Spanish Supercup, 4 UEFA Champions Leagues, 3 UEFA Super Cup, and 3 FIFA Club World Cups in his time with Barcelona. And in what seems like a blink of an eye, those 21 years of magic, passion, and success with los blaugranas have come to its final chapter.
It is no secret that both Barcelona and Messi had a mutual agreement to keep him at the club on a 5-year deal. The goal of that agreement was to keep Messi at Barca until his retirement, where he’d be 39 by the end of the contract. Due to La Liga complications and previous failures by horrible leadership from the prior Barca president, there was no way Messi could stay. La Liga has a rule where teams can only spend 70% of their incomes on player salaries. Barcelona announced, after last president Josep Bartomeu stepped down, that they were over a billion dollars in debt. COVID had seen a lot of clubs lose a lot of financial stability, and Barca were hit with losses of around $430 million dollars last year alone. Messi had offered to play for free until the financials got under control, but per Spanish laws, a person can’t receive less than 50% of their wage cut to avoid financial manipulation. So no matter how bad Messi wanted to stay, and how much he was willing to sacrifice, the hole dug by Bartomeu was too much to get out of. Even if Messi hypothetically played for free, the wage bill for Barcelona would still be around 95%, a number that only shows the lack of financial competence the previous presidency had. Signings of players like Coutinho, Demebele, and Griezmann were all with a hefty price tag of over $100 million. Coutinho and Griezmann are effectively out of the squad, and Dembele can’t stay healthy. Other players Barca have, like the Samuel Umtitti’s of the world, were marquee signings who never play anymore yet remain on the team, eating away at an already feeble financial structure.
What Messi Meant to Cules Around the World
As a Barca fan myself, I can’t even begin to explain the love I have for him. From his shaggy hair days where he’d dance around the Camp Nou with the likes of Ronaldinho and Iniesta, taking the breath away from spectators present in the stadium or at home, to his final games with Barca, it was no secret how special he was. His incredible pace, his ability to keep the ball seemingly tied to his foot, and his consistent effort for a team he loved was one of the greatest experiences ever. It seemed that every time he did something spectacular on the pitch to make you think he couldn’t elevate his game, the next match he’d one-up himself. The fact that he brought home 35 trophies to Barca (club record) also furthered his legend status at the club. There’s no sport that brings people together greater than the beautiful game of fútbol. Fans would pack the house at the Camp Nou to see Messi. They would celebrate his triumphs as if they themselves had won it because that’s just how Messi made Barca fans feel. His losses were even heavier. Seeing Messi sad and hurt bothered so many fans because he has brought so much joy and passion to them. Murals can be seen scattered around Barcelona, or in his home country of Argentina, you’d think he had passed away. That’s just how much he means to fans across the world. It wouldn’t surprise me that the Camp Nou would feel different. Be emptier and lack a lot of warmth. It’ll take a while for the ache to go away because we thought he’d leave Barca for retirement, not because we couldn’t afford him. I know fans will continue to support him for who he is, but for Barcelona fans who were attached to him through the greatness the club once was, it’s gonna take some time to be ok.
Messi and His New Club
Shortly after Messi was officially announced as OUT of Barcelona, PSG were quick to launch an offer. When Messi had issues with the prior president and management, PSG was among those teams he was eying in case of a departure. Fast forward to now, and it’s official. Messi rejoins ex-Barca teammate, Neymar, in Paris after inking a 2-year contract worth about $41 million a year with a $30 million sign-on fee. He’ll sport the number 30 and join a team that had a TREMENDOUS transfer period. Youngsters like keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (who just won the EURO with Italy) and fullback Achraf Hakimi are some of the players that add youth and energy to the squad. Veterans like ex-Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and Gini Wijnaldum add leadership and IQ to a team that wants to win now. A front three of Neymar, Mbappe, and Messi is sure to break the internet, and hopefully break records. Time and time again PSG gets so close to winning the Champions league, with their last chance being a finals loss in 2020. For a team who has never won the prestigious title, adding all these players, including Messi, is a sign they want to win now. If Messi had a lot of pressure in Barca, he’s sure gonna have a lot in Paris. It’ll be a tall task but if anyone can answer the call it’s la pulga.
In the end, Barcelona and Messi fans alike wish him well on his future endeavors. There is no way any of us can have any type of love lost for a man who was willing to play for free to keep us and himself happy. It’ll sting to see him play for another team, and game days for Barca without him in the lineups will be tough to watch though all the love and memories will stay. But if anyone deserves support and appreciation on his new journey, it’s Messi, our forever number 10.