Lionel Messi is Barcelona. No player in world football has become as synonymous with one club as the mesmeric forward, and that’s what makes his exit all the more shocking.
The thought of him playing in a kit other than Barça’s next season is almost unfathomable, but it’s a reality we’ll have to get used to after the Blaugrana confirmed he would not be signing a new deal.
Many things have contributed to Messi leaving Camp Nou – not least of all his hopeless former employers – and we’ve taken a look at the timeline of events that led to the six-time Ballon d’Or winner cutting ties with arguably the biggest club in the world.
Sounds pretty innocuous, doesn’t it? Well the Frenchman’s arrival at Camp Nou actually played a part in Messi’s exit.
He’s not directly to blame and there’s plenty of other transfers we could have picked, but basically we’re pinpointing one of the many ludicrously hefty wage bills sanctioned by the club which have led to them being in financial ruin.
Barcelona have claimed Messi wanted to stay at Camp Nou and that had it not been for financial issues he would have done so, but they’ve only got themselves to blame really when you’ve got players like Antoine Griezmann sat on a reported £575,000-per-week.
Getting beat is one thing, but getting utterly humiliated is another.
The first cracks in Messi’s relationship with Barcelona started to show when they were smashed 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the quarter-final of the Champions League.
Messi has always admitted he wants to be at a side capable of being crowned kings of Europe. and Barcelona’s defeat to 2019/20’s eventual winners smacked of a side who were miles off challenging for the crown.
Speculation surrounding the future of Luis Suarez also didn’t help the Argentina international’s relationship with the club and little more than a week later the unthinkable happened…
The news that we never thought would come.
Messi sent shockwaves around the footballing world when he informed Barcelona little under 12 months ago that he intended to leave the club.
Paris Saint-Germain immediately emerged as one of the favourites to sign the Argentinian, with Manchester City also among the contenders to secure his signature.
There was said to have been a dispute regarding the validity of a contract clause which would allow Messi to leave the La Liga giants for free, but regardless of the motive Barcelona’s captain and talisman was clearly eager to push for a move away.
Speculation over where Messi would be heading next had obviously begun to intensify by the time he was scheduled to attend a Covid test five days after news of his desire to leave broke, and his refusal to turn up for said test suggested things could be about to get messy (sorry).
The Barcelona captain was subsequently unable to take part in his side’s pre-season training, though La Liga were in no mood to entertain Messi’s antics and issued a statement revealing the aforementioned clause, which would have allowed him to leave for free, was no longer valid.
With a free transfer away from Camp Nou off the cards, any club looking to lure Messi away from Barça would need to trigger the £600m release clause in his deal.
The forward conceded it would be ‘impossible’ for the club’s valuation of him to be matched and as such he was resigned to another season at Barcelona.
When Joan Laporta announced his intention to run for club president once again one of the main promises made during his campaign was that he would ensure Messi remained at Camp Nou.
In fairness, he must have believed what he was saying considering he was providing us with regular updates on the contract talks and even recently suggested the deal would be penned in the coming weeks – those promises have been made to look a little silly now.
It’s mad how little attention anyone paid to the fact arguably the greatest player of all time had become a free agent.
Messi’s contract with Barcelona expired on 1 July 2020 while away on international duty at the Copa America with Argentina, but, as previously mentioned, Laporta had always insisted that the matter was in hand and so there was no sudden stampede of clubs desperately trying to thrash out a deal for the 34-year-old.
Of all the events on this list this is surely the one that makes absolutely no sense when you first read it.
Shortly after Barcelona announced they would be cutting ties with Messi, speculation circulated that one of the reasons he was leaving was due to the club’s inability to add to their defensive options, with Cristian Romero’s move to Tottenham a particularly sore point.
Messi is understood to have been desperate for Barcelona to bring his countryman to Camp Nou, but with the north Londoners signing the defender, Barça have clearly missed their chance.
Oh not this again.
Less than 12 months on from Messi’s insistence he would be leaving Barcelona, reports coming out of Spain suggested the routine contract talks described by Laporta had in fact hit a stumbling block.
Usually when stuff like this starts to circulate there’s a couple of days of silence before we find out whether the reports were true or a load of rubbish, but it was literally a matter of hours before we were given the answer…
‘Leo Messi will not continue with FC Barcelona’.
Even reading it now it doesn’t seem believable.
Usually a player’s departure is followed by the club desperately trying to cover up what went on, but the Spanish behemoths took a different approach and just admitted they’re in financial ruin and so Messi would be leaving – although, if that turns out to be the cover up then who knows what’s gone on.
The usual suspects have already been linked with a move for Messi, but no doubt we’re in for a good few weeks of weirdos claiming they’ve seen him at a Nando’s in Dagenham and tracking every plane to fly out of Barcelona.