Lionel Messi: Barcelona reject blame and use the legend in a power play
Maybe a time will come when something big happens involving one of European football’s superclubs and it won’t look like another chapter in the Super League saga. But it’s not there yet. Where Lionel Messi plays next season will be the result of the same political and socio-economic dynamics that led to that breakaway attempt in the spring – that and Barcelona’s dismal mismanagement.
It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that a handful of Catalan businessmen, some well-meaning, some selfish, all basically in place for their ability to meet the demands of Barcelona’s fan base, aren’t up to the task. height of the essential. wealth of Qatar and Abu Dhabi, especially not when the pandemic has widened the gap between the traditional elite, dependent on football for their income, and the new money that effectively exists outside the traditional market. But still, Barcelona played an extraordinarily bad hand.
Not that there was the slightest hint of self-consciousness in Barcelona’s statements confirming Messi won’t be returning to the club despite a new pact seemingly imminent.
“Although FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi have reached an agreement and both parties clearly intend to sign a new contract today, this cannot be done due to financial and structural obstacles,” said the club on Thursday. “Due to this situation, Messi will not stay at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the player’s and the club’s wishes were ultimately not granted.”
Barcelona are $1.3 billion in debt, partly due to a series of overpriced and underperforming signings, partly because they have struggled to offload players with high salaries and in partly because she was paying about $53 million net in after-tax base salary to Messi. He offloaded Luis Suárez last season (and saw him help Atlético Madrid to the league title) and is openly looking to move on to Samuel Umtiti, Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann.
Barcelona traded Messi down to around half of his previous salary but were unable to re-sign him after his previous contract expired as he remains in breach of La Liga’s Financial Fair Play rules. He was also unable to register his summer additions, such as compatriot and longtime friend of Messi, Sergio Aguero, who signed a free transfer from Manchester City. These are the ‘financial and structural obstacles’ that Barca complained about.
There is another game being played here, however, beyond the basic rules. Would La Liga be as strict if Barcelona had not sought to abandon it at the start of the year to found a Super League (of which it and Real Madrid remain two of the only three remaining members)? And then there’s the matter of private equity firm CVC Capital Partners’ purchase of a 10% stake in La Liga revenue and a future business entity, which was announced on Wednesday despite the opposition from Barcelona and Real Madrid.
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During his press conference on Friday, president Joan Laporta reiterated the club’s attack on La Liga for signing the deal. His other comments, however, were more ambiguous, as he simultaneously seemed to blame the league for not agreeing to the deal Barca reached with Messi, while claiming the club could not mortgage their future for just one player.
In that sense, the timing seems telling. Could it be a bluff by Barca, well aware that Messi is a big part of the league’s global commercial appeal? Is this an attempt for CVC to pressure La Liga to be merciful? If such is the hope, it may be in vain. La Liga seem determined to regain control of the superclubs, and their rhetoric suggests a body completely sick of Real Madrid’s attempts in particular to run the league for their own ends. Madrid threatened legal action over the CVC deal, to which the league responded on Thursday by saying: “La Liga are not concerned about a possible legal action by Real Madrid, as it was a predictable reaction given the of the history of the said club.”
As for Messi, if he leaves Barca there are only two realistic European destinations, as there were last summer when he tried to leave the club due to an acrimonious relationship with the club. former president Josep Bartomeu: Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Man City wanted him last year, when they tried to activate a contract clause to leave on a free transfer only to find they had missed the deadline, but after spending $139million on Jack Grealish and getting him Handed over the No.10 jersey, he now appears committed to his pursuit of Harry Kane. Pep Guardiola confirmed this in comments made on Friday. Which leaves PSG, who would have been in contact with Messi’s camp on Thursday evening.
Messi has been open about his desire to reconnect with Neymar, and it can’t hurt that PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino is another Rosarino. Having two such individualistic talents won’t necessarily help PSG improve their Champions League record, but it would be a big symbolic win, a logical end to the process that began with the record €222m signing of Neymar from Barcelona in 2017. It was what sparked Barcelona’s misguided spending spree and inflated the market and prompted the traditional powers to seek to restructure football to guarantee them income, a process accelerated by the pandemic.
Because that’s modern football: Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest player of all time, has become a pawn, a trophy, in a political game of soft power.
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