Goodbye Lionel Messi
In an announcement that shocked the whole world, FC Barcelona issued an official statement Thursday that the club would not be re-signing Lionel Messi. The official statement, citing the financial state of the club, announced the club could not afford to sign Messi within La Liga’s Financial Fair Play rules. This announcement coming despite the desire of both parties to sign a new contract. In fact, reports claim the club had the signing announcements ready and club players expected Messi to be in training as soon as this weekend. Friday, club president Joan Laporta held a press conference to further explain the situation. He once again made clear the inability to sign Messi was the result of financials.
Thursday night into Friday, there were rumors the announcement from FC Barcelona was an attempt to get La Liga to make a salary cap exemption. While this is possible, likelihood of it being successful, should that be the intent, is slight. Much hope amongst fans around this was greatly diminished during Friday’s conference.
“Receiving a call from La Liga saying that the limit can be changed? It’s a dream that we fans have, of course, I imagine things…but the reality is what I am telling you.”Joan Laporta
Barcelona’s disastrous financials have been a problem for years. Former president Bartomeu’s board left the financials in tatters. The club is drowning in debt, with players stuck in extremely expensive contracts. In fact, the story all summer has been the struggle to re-negotiate and sell players on these problematic contracts. There was always the chance the financials would prevent Barcelona from succeeding in re-signing Messi, though the club was always confident. On Friday, Laporta told the public he did all he could. He announced his only option to re-sign Messi would put the long-term future of Barcelona at risk. Unwilling to get the club in a contract for several decades, he chose to let Messi go instead.
Messi’s Next Move
Reports emerged within hours of Barcelona’s announcement that Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) had contacted Messi’s camp to begin contract negotiations. PSG and former Barcelona star, Neymar, reportedly contacted Messi to convince him to move to Paris as well. Additionally, reports claim Messi called PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino. As things stand, PSG seems to be the desitination for Messi.
PSG is a reasonable choice for Messi. He has several friends at the club as well as fellow Argentine Pochettino as the boss. With claims Messi is extremely upset leaving Barcelona, it makes sense he would want to go somewhere he has friends and a support system, not just for himself but also his family. Additionally, PSG is fairly sound financially and has a strong sporting project. Two factors that will be extremely important to Messi.
Of course, there are not many other clubs that could afford Messi to begin with. Manchester City and Chelsea being the only other two stable enough to take on Messi’s wages. However, Manchester City just signed Jack Grealish having triggered his release clause, and are trying to negotiate with Tottenham Hotspur for Harry Kane. Similarly, Chelsea is in negotiations to sign Romelu Lukaku. While there is no doubt either club would love to sign Messi, their current negotiations take them out of serious consideration. In the end, Messi’s next club will likely come down to where he wants to play. Right now, it seems that club is PSG.
FC Barcelona’s Next Move
For Barcelona, Lionel Messi’s departure marks the beginning of a new era. It will be a painful growth period, but a necessary one. On the pitch, Messi has carried the team for years. Without him, others will have to step up. The club will have to rely on La Masia to help fill in the gaps and make up the goal and assist numbers Messi put up season after season. It will not be easy. The players on massive contracts that have so far underperformed will have to step up and start living up to their salaries and transfer fees.
While Messi’s salary off the books helps lower the salary number for the La Liga cap, Laporta has confirmed that even without Messi’s salary the club is still over their limit. For Laporta, the financial situation is still extremely dire and Messi’s leaving does not change that. He still has to try to renegotiate contracts and/or convince players to leave. Additionally, he also must figure out sponsorships and endorsements now that Messi has left. With Messi having brought in about 30% of the club’s revenue, and singlehandedly turning Barcelona a net profit, Laporta will have to find a way to make up the so-called “Messi money.”
This season will be difficult for Barcelona. Likely the next one and even the one after that will be too. The club is going to have rebuild and restructure. It is likely performances will not be up to the caliber of recent years. The Camp Nou is still crumbling as well. Things will look different at Barcelona without Messi, but it is important to remember Messi was never going to play forever. This time was always coming, it is just here a few years earlier than initially expected. Joan Laporta has a massive project in front of him, however, if there is any individual capable of setting the club back on the path to success, Laporta is the one to back.