Lionel Messi will be wearing a shirt that isn’t Barcelona’s this season for the first time since he was 13-years-old and a promising talent in the youth ranks at Newell’s Old Boys.
The club agreed a new contract with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner but were unable to take it forward as a result of ‘financial and structural obstacles’ caused by their woeful financial situation and La Liga’s strict salary cap rules.
Messi has spent 21 years, well over half his life, at Camp Nou. Some of his teammates, like Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, he has played with for over a decade. Others, including teenage prodigies Pedri and Ansu Fati, have come into the team much more recently but have still relished the time they have spent as a colleague of one of the greatest players of all time.
Here’s what his Barça teammates have had to say about him on social media.
“Nothing will ever be the same again. Not the Camp Nou, not the city of Barcelona, not ourselves. After more than 20 years at the club, you will stop wearing the Barca shirt. Reality, sometimes, is very harsh,” Pique said in a statement uploaded to Twitter.
“We met in 2000, we were 13 years old and had a career ahead of us, what a career! if we had designed it at that time, it would be impossible to make it better. A f*****g madness!
“In my first season, after returning to FC Barcelona, we won the treble and you became the best player of all time. From Rosario to touching the sky of Rome. That’s where the legend began. What came next is history. And what a time we had!
“Now you are leaving, but I know that one day you will come back. There are things to do. Have fun, enjoy wherever you go and keep winning as only you know how to do. Here we will miss you. I love you, Leo.”
“Still trying to understand everything and knowing how difficult it will be, I can only thank you for what you have done for the club and for those who have accompanied you in these years and specifically towards me,” Busquets posted on Instagram.
“You arrived as a child and you are the best player in history, having made this club grow to the height that it deserves and making history individually and collectively.
“I can always say that I played and shared many moments with you, most of them very good and I was lucky to grow up and enjoy 13 seasons with you.
“Beyond all this I remain with the person and the friendship that we made, I will miss you a lot. I can only wish you and your family the best because you deserve it, you will be missed.”
“What a privilege to have been able to share these nine seasons together. What beautiful experiences we have enjoyed and how we have overcome difficult moments,” Alba said.
“I was lucky enough to be able to live your first goal in 2005 against Albacete at Camp Nou and I never thought that one day we would have that relationship that with just a glance we understood each other. How we have enjoyed on the field with your passes in the race and my back pass, how well it worked for us. How am I going to miss it!
“You are not only the greatest player in the history of football, but you are also an exceptional human being. Friend, thank you from the heart for everything you have given to the club, for your friendship, for your support in the grey days, for the great moments lived that will remain forever in our memory. I wish you and your whole family the best in your new adventure.
“A big hug, I love you, brother.”
“Of all the experiences I have had in the last year, playing alongside him has been one of the most incredible. I have had the opportunity and pride to learn every day from the best footballer and meet a great person,” commented Pedri.
“Leo, I keep what we shared during this year together. Enjoy this new stage and thank you for everything!”
“All the boys who come to La Masia dream of being able to play with you, I feel lucky to have fulfilled it. I wanted to thank you these two years for your gestures of affection towards me and for everything I learned,” 18-year-old Fati said.
“My family and I will always be eternally grateful, I wish you and yours all the best.”
“When I was a child, I enjoyed every game of yours with my brother in our room watching you on television,” De Jong recalled. “When I came here two years ago I discovered that you were an amazing person. It has been a dream for me to play with the best player in history, I have enjoyed every minute on and off the pitch.
“Now I will continue to enjoy your magic but again like when I started, in front of the television. Thanks for everything, Leo. I wish the best in the future to you and your whole family.”
“The only thing I can tell you and that every soccer lover will think about it: thank you!” were the words of Griezmann.
“Thank you for everything you have done at Barcelona! For the city, for the club…you have changed everything! I am sure that it is not a goodbye but a see you later and that your path will cross again with FC Barcelona.
“I wish you the best, that you and your family are happy wherever you go. Very few know what it is to be Messi and you were an example for me in every way.”
“Thank you so much for everything. A great honour to have met you and played by your side,” Coutinho said.
“Very grateful for the way you treated me and my family during that time! I wish you every success in your future and may God always bless your home and your family.”
“I have no words to express what a privilege it has been to share a dressing room with you for 3 seasons. You have been an example of professionalism and camaraderie,” Lenglet posted.
“That is why you are the best player in the world and a legendary athlete. Thank you very much for everything you have given to the club and for the help you have given me since my first day at this great institution. I wish you all the best in the future.”
Poor Memphis never even got the chance to play with Messi. Understandably, he seems rather gutted.