Every so often there are rumors of Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona the way there were similar ones when Cristiano Ronaldo would be unhappy at Real Madrid. The difference is that Ronaldo is now at Juventus and Lio Messi is, until he actually signs papers indicating otherwise, still at Barca. So, what makes these rumors different?
Not. A. Thing.
Messi needed to show his displeasure and to at least pretend to try to leave and Barca needed to flex its muscles while it could. La Liga played their trumped-up card and attorneys on both sides were available to eat up the dough and extend the drama as long as someone’s ego allowed. But in the end, Lio Messi will stay one more year, will negotiate his exit at the January window, and will leave after the 2020-21 season—leaving Barca $800,000,000 poorer for their stupidity and in the midst of a restructuring.
What a shameful way to leave Barca. Reminds one of the shameful way Iker Casillas had to leave Real Madrid. It also shows how desperate the Spanish Football big-boys are to keep their one global uber-ace still playing on their home soil. But at what a cost? What up and coming superstar will ever take Madrid and Barcelona to heart again? Take their money, and the accompanying exposure via the clubs’ marketing clout and their global audience, sure, but become a team icon? Oh, well.
And so, as with CR7 leaving Real when Lio leaves Barca the clubs will still be so much more financially powerful than the other 18 in the league that one or the other will always be in contention for all the domestic silverware in Spain and maybe some European trophy to boot. But, as the years of Madrid dominance have begun to dwindle, so do the years of Barca relevance seem to be fading.
When push comes to shove both clubs are headed by men who are as enamored with their time atop the Spanish Giants as they are with their egos for having climbed their respective summits. Their view is so skewed that having had the two greatest players of their generation playing for their league’s two iconic super-rivals for nearly a decade meant nothing to them in the end. Ronnie and Lio should have remained at their Spanish clubs until retirement and their clubs, the Spanish football nation, and their domestic league would have been the better for it.
But there is something to be said about the spreading-of-the-riches of the sport that these circumstances bring to the fore. Notice how many true contenders we will have next season. Bayern Munich, the German standard-bearer, are back and their younger stars are as much the reason as their veterans are. Italy’s Juventus is but a good couple of acquisitions away from true European contention as they are melding their veterans with some young stars and some up and comers.
France’s PSG showed its grit and deserved to win this year’s Champions League. They may still win it next year if Neymar and Kylian Mbappe remain in Paris. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp will still be leading exciting competitive sides next season. So, somehow Messi remaining another year at Barca does not seem to change the landscape as much as his departure might. But regardless of his move, the next two years promise to be exceptional for all the reasons we have discussed all year long. At the end of this historic period, it will be exciting to witness whether it is still Lio and Ronaldo setting the tempo or whether Mbappe and Neymar, or Joshua Kimmich and Serge Gnabry or Rodrigo Bentancur and Matthijs de Ligt are the ones who lead the way.