It must have indeed come as a shock to the myriads of FC Barcelona fans right across the globe that their super star captain and the highest paid football player in the world Lionel Messi wants to leave the club.
Camp Nou no longer seems to the same place where the Argentine arrived as a teenager way back in 2001. At 33, the mercurial Messi has handed in a transfer request to the club board, with whom he has not really had the best of relations right through the 2019-20 season.
The 2-8 defeat at the hands of eventual UEFA Champions League winners Bayern Munich seems to be the last straw for the man who earned close to a staggering 100 million Euros per year at Barcelona through last season, making him the highest paid footballer on Planet Earth.
The Barcelona board seems to have taken Messi’s presence at Camp Nou for granted, especially since the Argentine had let the June 30 deadline for free transfer pass without incident. Little did they realise that with an extended season due to the Covid19 pandemic, deadlines have lost all meaning.
So when Messi, through a recorded delivery and open content on Burofax, sent in his transfer request to move on from the Catalan club, it indeed sent shock waves not only in Spanish football but the entire football world! After all, Barcelona is the only club that Messi has ever played for in his entire senior career of 16 years.
Even though Barcelona are looking at a 700 million Euro pay-out, it could very well end up being only a dream since the lawyers will have to settle the issue and Messi, more likely than not, appears set to walk away for free.
That even the appointment Ronald Koeman, the fifth Dutchman to take charge at Camp Nou, failed to hold Messi back hints to problems much deeper than his mere cold vibes with the last few men at the helm. Koeman follows a long line of Dutch coaches since Rinus Michels in 1971, followed by Johan Cryuff, Louis van Gaal and Frank Rijkaard.
Each one of them provided the club with a fair degree of success but that doesn’t seem to hold out any hope for keeping Messi back at Camp Nou.
FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu may find it tough to defend his position once Messi leaves since the two are known to share a rather indifferent relationship. The only saving grace for Bartomeu would be to somehow enforce the 700 million Euro fee but that too appears rather tenuous with fans already clamouring for his resignation.
Sometimes decision-makers fail to fathom the true passion of fans who, without any doubt, form the cornerstone of any sporting outfit. So there is little surprise that views inside and outside the board-room hardly match at the moment. Since retaining an unsettled player, especially after the transfer request has been put in such a public fashion, may not really be a good idea, its all about cutting the losses.
Lionel Messi has grown up with Barcelona and if he leaves, it is bound to cause an upheaval at the club!
Ravi Kant Singh is a sports writer, analyst and broadcaster since 1984, having covered a wide spectrum of sports—Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, FIFA World Cup, Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy, to name a few.