The contract tussle between Lionel Messi and Barcelona which lasted for two weeks might be over but the two parties would continue to count their losses even after the commencement of the 2020-2021 season. If so, who really won the tussle?
Recall that the whole saga received a big leap when Bayern Munich inflicted the worst defeat on Lionel Messi and Barcelona by beating them 8-2 to knock them out of the 2019-2020 UEFA Champions League in the quarter-finals stage of the competition. Days after the match, Messi official tender his transfer request to Barcelona.
Though most people believe that the 8-2 defeat forced Messi to take such a drastic decision but the sign that he might leave has been evident long before the La Liga season ended. The sign started forming in July when the club was stunned 2-1 at home by Osasuna which handed Real Madrid the La Liga title for the first time since 2017.
The defeat and the loss of the title did not seat well for Lionel Messi who came out to lambast the whole team. Messi who is not regarded as being such a critical person could not hide how frustrated the season was to him.
He said: We didn’t want to end the season like this but it represents how the season has gone.
“We were a very erratic, very weak, low-intensity team…We lost a lot of points and today’s game is a summary of the season.
“We have to be self-critical. Starting with the players but doing a global self-criticism. We are Barca and we have to win everything. We can’t look at Madrid…Madrid have done their job, but we have helped them a lot.
When Lionel Messi stated this, Barcelona still had the opportunity of not ending the season without a trophy for the first time since the 33-year-old Argentina international made his senior debut for the club in 2004. The opportunity was the UEFA Champions League which eluded them in a scandalous manner.
After the trophy-less season, Barcelona made some critical decisions by sacking the club’s head coach Quique Setien. Two days later, the club sacked their sporting director Eric Abidal just two years after he was appointed. More so, the club appointed their legend Ronald Koeman as the new head coach.
All these decisions were not enough to give Lionel Messi the confidence to extend his contract which has only a season left. The decisions did not also give him the confidence to remain at the club to complete the one season left in his contract with the club.
Lionel Messi vs Barcelona: The contract tussle itself
Though Lionel Messi was ready to leave, the manner in which he was planning to leave could not be accepted by the president of Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu who is not even interested in discussing Messi’s exit. Messi wanted to leave for free but Bartomeu insisted that Messi can only leave after his suitor must have paid the €700 million release clause in his contract.
Amid on these, Manchester City through coach Pep Guardiola were already setting up themselves to wade into the contract tussle by grabbing the Barcelona icon to the Premier League. Reports started flying that the Premier League club had agreed personal terms with Lionel Messi and that there was a bumper deal on the table for the Argentine forward.
However, the world was shocked a few days later when Lionel Messi’s father, Jorge Messi who is also his agent, came out and tell the world that he has not spoken to Manchester City.
This was seen as a u-turn to the entire saga which indeed turned out to be the case on Friday, September 5, when Messi came out to say he was staying because he didn’t want to go into a legal battle with a club he had spent 20 years in.
Lionel Messi or Barcelona who lose?
In every contract tussle, there will always be a winner or a loser. However, in some rare cases, it will be a win-win situation. In the case of Lionel Messi and Barcelona, it is a win-win situation but Barcelona are the biggest winners.
Here is why:
From the start of the contract tussle, all Bartomeu wanted was to ensure that Lionel Messi remained at the club beyond this summer and probably beyond June 2021 when his current contract with the club will expire. He has gotten the first part which is to ensure that the Argentine remains at the club. If he can ensure that the 33-year-old extend his contract beyond June 2021, Barcelona will remain the biggest winners.
However, as it stands, the battle is not over for Barcelona except Messi signs the two-year contract extension on the table for him. If he doesn’t, there is a high possibility that he would finally walk away for free after the 2020-2021 season.
Lionel Messi has proven that he is a human after all by showing how circumstances can influence his loyalty. Now, Barcelona fans are divided because of the just-concluded contract tussle. Most of them have realized that Messi is not as loyal as they thought he was, hence, their loyalty to him would drastically drop in the forthcoming season.
This will surely put more pressure on him to perform at his natural peak in the forthcoming season in order to win their affection back. And if he fails to do so, he will get the sticks harder than he has ever gotten in his football career. So, he needs to start banging in the goals and providing the assists very early in the season before he starts getting boos whenever he touches the ball.
On the other hand, his market value will drastically drop at the end of the 2020-2021 season because before then, he would have turned 34-year-old. The thought of this will also mount pressure on him to deliver which could take away a lot from the Lionel Messi football fans used to know.