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Can or should Barça retire Messi’s number 10 if he leaves?

Alexandre Patanian

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Header Image by Aitor Alcalde via Getty Images

With Messi pushing to leave the club at which he arrived aged 13, one question emerges. Should Barcelona retire their iconic number 10 shirt?


The word legend has not gone unnoticed in the past few days. While the word has lost its definition, it has been used in the correct way ever since last Monday, when some news broke the Internet. Some news, and what genuinely bonkers news. Lionel Messi deciding to leave Barcelona, the club where he grew up and became the best in the business, is the biggest bombshell in the history of sports.

Everyone thought the Argentine would wind down his career in Barcelona and win some more La Liga and Champions League titles when he turned 30 in 2017 before retiring on the city as the most prevalent and vital player in the club’s history, beating everyone who had a bit of history with the blaugranas forever.

Well, that was one of the biggest dreams Messi, and any culé had before living through hell for three years in a row. Today, everyone knows it: Messi may not finish his career as a Barcelona player, and the legendary number 10 is trying everything he can to leave the sinking ship, which is his right after years of carrying a team in decline.

“When Messi retires, which I hope will be a long time from now, they should leave the No. 10 there so that nobody can touch it again”

Ronaldinho, in 2018

At 33, this is the first time Messi puts his intentions before the club’s, and it has come as a massive blow for everyone involved at Barça, from the board to the fans, who do not know what to do anymore. This mess has created many interrogations, the first one about the deal itself and the legal battle that has been ongoing for the past week and a half or so in Catalonia.

Today, let’s take a look at another topic, though, less critical than if Messi will leave or not. That is the question of the number 10, the mythical number the Argentine has worn for 12 years, without ever faltering. If Barça could retire it, and if they could, should they really?

Lionel Messi Samuel Eto'o Ronaldinho Barcelona retire number 10

Lionel Messi inherited the number 10 from another Camp Nou great, Ronaldinho | Photo by César Rangel / AFP via Getty Images

First of all, let’s get into the La Liga regulations concerning numbers. The league only allows the 25 first-team members to wear the digits between 1 and 25 on the back of their shirts. That’s why youngsters like Ansu Fati or Riqui Puig, who hadn’t signed for the first team yet, wore the numbers 31 and 28, respectively, and will now wear first-team numbers.

La Liga actually has a moving story revolving around retiring one number. In August 2007, Antonio Puerta, a Sevilla gem at the time, suffered a series of cardiac arrests on the pitch against Getafe. Three days later, the defender died, and Sevilla was in shock because of what had happened. They had just lost one of their promising youngsters in the most tragic of ways, someone who had won two Europa Leagues in a row alongside late José Antonio Reyes and Jesús Navas.

Navas now wore the Sevilla captain armband for the whole 19/20 season with Reyes’ name on it and with Puerta’s number 16 on his back. After Puerta’s death, however, the Andalusian club wanted to retire the number, but the league didn’t let them as it was against the regulations. Therefore, every game, at the Ramón Sanchez-Pizjuán, there’s a tribute to Puerta on the 16th minute.

Antonio Puerta 16 Sevilla Barcelona retire number 10 Lionel Messi

Sevilla could not retire Antonio Puerta’s number 16, which is now only worn by their academy graduates | Photo by Cristina Quicler / AFP via Getty Images

If Sevilla couldn’t get their number 16 retired, then neither should Barcelona with their number 10, and they won’t. Now, let’s say, hypothetically, the league turns a blind eye on this case and allows Barça to retire it. Should the Catalan giants do it?

Well, not really, no. Many greats have worn inspirational numbers for the club of their life, and retiring numbers is the anomaly in the sport, not the other way around. While Inter retired the number 4 in Javier Zanetti’s honour, the players can choose any number from 1 to 99, without anyone caring. Barcelona is a legendary club that didn’t retire the number 14, 6 or 8, in honour of their most important players ever because they know they will have many more mythical players that will grace the pitch at Camp Nou.

Before Messi, there was Ronaldinho and before him Rivaldo and even before him, Diego Armando Maradona was there. While the latter didn’t enjoy life in Barcelona, the other two did, and never was there a debate about retiring the number 10, as it should be. No player is bigger than a club, and while Messi is the greatest ever, it wouldn’t be fair on others not to have this honour while he did.

Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United Barcelona retire number 10 Lionel Messi

Number 7 is an iconic number for Manchester United, as the number 10 should be for Barcelona | Photo by Laurence Griffiths via Getty Images

Other clubs have had greats wearing the same number, and they still use it. The number 7 at Manchester United is filled with history, as George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have all worn this massive number and exceeded expectations at the club. This doesn’t take away that the number has been misused recently, with Memphis Depay, Ángel Di María or Alexis Sánchez all wearing it in the space of three years.

While Barça shouldn’t be as foolish with their incredible number, they should try to give it a new meaning, after the Messi story. Imagine Ansu Fati, the 17-year-old youngster, winning a Champions League in ten years with the same number as Leo Messi on the back. That would be a dream that could happen shortly if Fati is treated well and if the number 10 doesn’t go to a player not worthy of it, because it has a lot of meaning to it.

Being a number 10 at Barça usually means you are the best player in the world, and Barcelona should not misuse their number on someone who will play as poorly as Depay, Álex Sánchez and Di María did for Manchester United with the number 7. Instead, they should wait for the next big thing and, while giving some significant responsibilities, showing the next player enough faith for them to go on and have a fruitful career, walking in the path of the best players to have worn the big number 10 at Barça.

As a Lebanese teenager who never had the chance to support their local team, I fell in love with the club that was FC Barcelona at the start of the decade. I always was passionate about writing and this is exactly what I am looking for: sharing my insights and opinions on football.

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Opinions

Effective leadership of Messi: If you want to be followed, give credit not blame.

Maha Naeem Khan

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Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Lionel Messi’s effective leadership has been representing the Catalans for years now with pride and loyalty. He is not only the greatest footballer but arguably one of the best leaders any team could desire for. Messi’s personification of self-confidence and his perpetual attempts to backing the team is nonpareil. The Blaugrana captain is a leader who plays with the heart on his sleeves. No matter how crucial the circumstances were, he has proven himself to be the strength of the Catalans. During the club’s instability, merry-go-rounds of transfers and constantly increasing managerial issues; Leo’s leadership qualities remained static. 

One-man show within a team

The Argentine is an industrious forwarder who is nevertheless a key asset for FC Barcelona but at the same time: he is the best Captain as well. He has been lifting the club on his shoulders reaching to the heights of success for quite a while now. However, besides being a one-man show, Messi never took credit for the games FC Barcelona won because of his efforts alone. He has performed tirelessly to win trophies and set an example of effective leadership.

During Messi’s captaincy, FC Barcelona has won many titles and trebles. The majority of them were possible because of the magic show by this crazed-runner striker. Yet, the talisman never took pride, left his performance aside, and continued motivating his team to do better.

Initially, the Barcelona superstar wasn’t as vocal as he is now. But that didn’t make him a weak leader as on various occasions he displayed effective leadership traits. The recent one was his reaction to Abidal’s comments followed by the whole Board Saga.

Give credit, not blame

In recent times, the whole team was crunched and Messi was found battling alone relentlessly to win the match. Even then, he ends up giving the credit to the whole team for the victory. This became a problem for the Catalans lately as the whole team relies on their Messiah to win the match. In a way, this has affected the team productivity to a great extent. Despite that, the Captain never complained about the team’s overall bad performance. Instead, he always carried his legacy gracefully not blaming the teammates, no matter how disappointing circumstances were. This attitude of not whining over the team’s poor performance and looking forward to the ways to improve showed Messi’s effective leadership throughout the years.

Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Focused on team goals, rather than personal achievements

Messi is enriched with passion, guts, and determination. Without a doubt, he is a fearless leader and a tremendous captain. His priority has always been his team’s overall objectives and ways to let the club grow and move forward. People can vouch for his ability to put personal achievements aside and focus on the team goals invariably. Being one of the greatest footballers of all-times, La Pulga has won uncountable individual awards for performing exceptionally good. However, he never let personal preferences overshadow the aims of FC Barcelona. According to him;

“When the year starts the objective is to win it all with the team, personal records are secondary.”

– Lionel Messi

Conclusion

Some people underestimate the impact of giving credit to their fellowmen and teammates. Lionel Messi’s life is an epitome of moral and ethical values. People envy him and at the same time, they wish to be like him. By giving credit to others he made himself look like a bigger person. He always has a goal to recognize the accomplishments of his team. His motto seems to be ‘Neither blame nor take credit. This is the reason why a lot of people follow him blindly. He has gained the trust of his teammates and other footballers by trusting in their abilities in the first place.

In today’s world, the winning-mentality and sense of achievement take over one’s moral and ethical values. Blame games never lead a person anywhere. Messi has set an example of a leader who is sacrosanct. This gives us a lesson for becoming an effective leader and how to be followed. A leader whose words become too important to be trifled with and instructions are too valued to neglect! 

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