As likely the best football player of all time, any club in the world would love to have Lionel Messi. However, with his heart attached to FC Barcelona, the Argentine was expected to remain in Spain. A 50% pay cut was agreed with the financially troubled club, and a deal was agreed on weeks ago.
As pre-season began and Messi was nowhere to be seen, though, fans were beginning to wonder what was going on. His return, though, was guaranteed: he would sign a new deal with Barca and stick around.
Now, though, things have changed. An inability to make the wages work, with Barcelona spending far over what is seen as manageable for a club on player wages, has seen the deal collapse. Rumours began to swirl on Thursday that Messi would be back on the market as a player.
Then, the official announcement arrived – Messi would be leaving Barcelona for sure. 100%. No returns – the club simply have not been able to make the exits of surplus, highly paid players to ensure they can fit Messi into the salary cap.
This leaves the elite of club football scrambling to see if they can make a deal work. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has arisen to actually sign Messi. One can only assume that the financial controllers of the top clubs in Europe are working overtime to find a means of making Messi a signing they can manage.
Reports suggest that Messi himself has called Mauricio Pochettino to see if his team, Paris Saint-Germain, can make a deal work. The chance to live in Paris, play for his compatriot, and line up alongside Neymar Jr. once again has intrigued Messi. The player himself is said to be shocked at the situation unfolding in Barcelona.
What happens next?
At an emotional press conference, Barcelona supremo Joan Laporta, who was brought back with the remit of keeping Messi and building a new sporting project, said: “Leo wanted to stay at Barca. We wanted him to stay.
“I want to thank everyone that has been in the negotiations. There were lots of aspects that needed to be negotiated.
“He is the best player in the world and has other offers, of course. After all of this process, there comes a moment where you have to say ‘enough’. You have to analyse it and look at the numbers.
“In La Liga, we have to abide by the rules. We think they could be more flexible, but that is not an excuse. We couldn’t abide by it. Leo deserves everything. He has proven that he loves Barca. He has his roots in Barcelona. I’m sad but I’m convinced we have done the best for the interests of Barcelona.”
Could Lionel Messi stay at Barcelona after all?
Some suggested the coded language, and the focus on the La Liga salary issues was aimed at trying to make the league shift and change plans on salary caps to fit in Messi. However, Laporta was quick to pour cold water on such ideas, saying: “Leo’s legacy is excellent, he has made history. He is the player with the most success in the history of the club. I hope we can overcome this situation.
“A new era starts now. There will be before and after Leo, as there was with other great players in the history of Barca.”
In what might be the most seismic moment of the transfer window of all time, expect a huge swoop to take place across European football as the top clubs try to make space for the world-class playmaker.