With most of world football on a break, the focus is on the transfer window and the 2020 summer window is having a great party. There are a few stories running about the mill but nothing compares to Lionel Messi and in this week’s edition of Truthful Tuesday, we say that Barcelona needs to sell him.
Seven days. It’s been seven days since the burofax reached Barcelona’s office and the news dissipated through social media that Lionel Messi wanted to call it quits. Seven days and still, there are quite a few fans who simply can’t believe what they’re reading online, what they’re seeing offline and the fact that this could actually happen. Nobody believed it either but then Carles Puyol responded in what was a clear sign of support. Then Luis Suarez responded in what was another clear sign of support but still, a very few believed their eyes.
It was only after the images of a fan, wearing a number 10 Barcelona shirt, was spread on social media with him waiting to see the man as the superstars returned for training. The social media rumours have led us to believe that the boy spent the better part of a day waiting for Messi to show and then it finally struck many. Twenty years since that infamous napkin incident, Lionel Andres Messi could be leaving Barcelona. The fight to stop that goes on but so does the fight to ensure that a footballing great gets what he wants. Manchester, Paris, Milan and even Madrid have all been touted as potential destinations with theories thrown about by various journalists, fans and even his critics.
This is Lionel Messi after all and that makes this the greatest transfer saga of the 21st century. Few will ever come close to eclipsing this because of the sheer fact that nobody ever imagined this might actually happen. But even then, with this entire thing sitting on the precipice of blowing up in a big way, Barcelona should actually sell Lionel Andres Messi. Not let him go for free, or keep him for another big-money contract or even let him retire in the near future but actually let him go for enough money that would fill the Camp Nou if it was paid in pennies.
It probably won’t but the point is made. There’s a clear sign of unhappiness between both parties, especially from the Argentine’s side and who can blame him? The football club he has spent the large majority of his career at has spent the better half of the last decade doing nothing but finding new ways of failing. They’ve been incredibly incompetent and even that’s being nice but all that’s secondary because of the fee that Messi would command.
Put this into perspective. A Neymar in his prime commanded €222 million, release clause or not, four years ago and walked away from Barcelona. A 33-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo commanded €100 million after winning another Champions League trophy. Lionel Messi, in his most human season and at 33, would command anywhere between a €100 million and €700 million. And that’s ignoring the fact that Barcelona gets his €100 million wages, after-tax according to various reports, off their books. Imagine what that kind of money does to a club. You don’t have to because it has already happened and to Barcelona themselves.
About 220 million stories have been written about their exploits with what they did with it although few have ignored what Real Madrid, and now Chelsea, have done with their massive sums. They rebuilt their squads and didn’t half-ass it but instead went out, bought the players they believed would help them win. That effectively saw the Los Blancos lift the La Liga title, breaking a two-year drought in the process, although we’re yet to see what Chelsea manage with theirs. The point of this is the fact that Barcelona, in theory, and if they find someone who actually wants Lionel Messi, could get so much money that there’s a chance they may not know what to do with it.
This is a move that their fans, football fans and many others will indubitably hate and nobody will blame them. The romanticism of watching arguably the greatest footballer end his career at the club where he started at is a rarity for the modern fan. The last, famous and incredibly successful, footballer to do it was Francesco Totti. Since he retired in 2017, 25 one club men have done it but imagine if the greatest ever did it. But like many, with a brain, will agree Lionel Messi needs to leave Barcelona. This is not a team that will give the diminutive genius a chance at the sunset ending that his fans want and that he clearly has an inkling for.
So why shouldn’t Barcelona make a bunch of money in the process that will help transform this sinking wreck that they are at the moment into a team capable of not losing 8-2? Because their ongoing rebuild will net them pennies for the pounds that they’ve spent. Ivan Rakitic is leaving for free with Luis Suarez and Samuel Umtiti on the same road out. Arturo Vidal is leaving for pennies on the pound, Philippe Coutinho will never recoup even half his transfer fee, Antoine Griezmann might and the list goes on. Barcelona are on their beam ends and this might be their only way to try and solve their problem.
Not to mention, they will be quite literally dangling off a beam if this transfer saga unravels the way many expect it to. Like an utterly terrible divorce. Both sides are fighting tooth and nail to stand their ground although in this case, the law is on Barcelona’s side. Even then, thanks to a certain global pandemic, the club are currently walking on troubled financial grounds and thus it makes it tough to engineer a rebuild barring a serious influx of cash. This makes it a lot harder to replace, or even come close to replacing, a retiring Messi than it would be to replace one that disappears alongside his wages and leaves a nice big check behind.
Would his absence be felt? Naturally both on and off the field but Barcelona as a club and the sheer enormity of what Lionel Messi has done over the last dozen or so years have cemented their legacy. They’ll be minting money off that even after he retires to play football in Argentina and even after he retires and disappears off the face of the earth completely. Their stock is secure but right now it looks like, at least to us sitting outside the circle, that the Argentine wants to take his left foot and walk away. In the end, all this, even this article, would mean nothing because this might just be the greatest power play in history.
But whether or not it is, change is coming and as the great Miles Davies said, “If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.” Barcelona needs to keep creating and sometimes when every gun is pointed at you, the only option is nuclear. Or go the Johan Cruyff way and sell Lionel Messi, as Cruyff himself suggested seven something years ago.