Leo Saga Is All A Bit Messi! (Part 2)
That performance in August 2005 hailed the beginning of an endearing courtship between Messi and Futbol Club Barcelona.
The honeymoon period saw the club repeat their La Liga and Supercopa victories in Messi’s first full season, and add the Champions League with a comeback win over Arsenal in Paris, their first European Cup victory in 14 years.
The next 14 or so years saw more successes than failures. Under Messi’s stewardship the Catalan club picked up 10 Spanish League titles, 4 Champions Leagues and 6 Spanish Cups, with the nimble number 10 picking up 6 Ballon D’or trophies on his Barca adventure.
A bitter end
But about a month ago, the happy marriage between Messi and club began to completely breakdown, hurtling towards an ugly divorce with the threat of legal proceedings in courts and disputes about release clauses and money.
At 33, after 16 years, 731 games and 634 goals, Messi saw the ageing squad depleting in quality, and people in the boardroom mishandling the future of the club. Messi was fed up. He felt he still had another Ballon D’or in him, another Champions League, and this couldn’t be achieved with his beloved Barcelona. So, he was done.
And so began the next stage of ‘Messigate’.
Where would he go? Who could afford him? What team could match his ambition and wage demands?
The obvious choice staring everyone in the face was Manchester City. They have wealth and are managed by Pep Guardiola, Messi’s former manager and arguably the gaffer who brought Messi the golden period in his career. The move would also reunite him with lifelong pal and national team roommate, Sergio Aguero. But City have just escaped a European ban due to Financial Fair Play, and with Messi’s fixed annual salary at Barcelona being £64million, with loyalty and performance-related bonuses taking the package towards £95m, it may have been just too much, even for City owner Sheikh Mansour.
How about a move to Italy?
Arguably, Juventus currently own Italy, having recently won their ninth straight Serie A title. Could the impossible dream become a reality? Could Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo actually team up in the greatest attacking force ever seen in football? In a word. No. The Old Lady are already burdened by Ronaldo’s wages, and couldn’t afford to be home to the dynamic duo, as much as I’m sure they’d love to be.
It was clear that the astronomical numbers needed to complete a deal for Messi was the key hurdle that needed jumped.
Upon renewing his deal back in 2017, the Argentine insisted on including an option that would allow him to unilaterally terminate his employment and walk away for free in the summer of 2020, though the clause stipulated that he had to inform the club by June 10 if he wanted to exercise it.
And here’s the crux, the Messi camp didn’t.
It’s hard to believe that Messi and his team just forgot about this date.
And here comes an interesting twist on the whole situation. Sports Journalist Gabriele Marcotti suggested that on June 10th, Manchester City were still banned from European football for the next two seasons.
A decision to stay
Then Messi gave an exclusive interview to goal.com.
The world’s best player expressed his frustration and anger, insisting he had new targets at this stage in his career, targets he felt he could not achieve at Barcelona.
But those targets would have to wait, as the board told him the only chance he had of leaving, would be to pay the £640million release clause, a feat Messi insisted was impossible. The alternative was to go through the courts.
‘I will never go to court against Barcelona, never!’ Messi proclaimed.
So, reluctantly, he was staying. You could barely make him out for the grinding of his teeth.
Sadly, it’s clear this marriage has gone the way many go, with Messi still in love with his other half, but far from happy.
Time will tell if the two can rekindle the spark of yesteryear, and bring fans of the Camp Nou more memories like that special night in August 2005, the night I discovered Lionel Andrés Messi.