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 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.
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.
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.
3 Players Barcelona can sell to ease their financial burden
A debt of €1.173 billion, more than €700 million of which is short term, has sent FC Barcelona down a rabbit hole. The club’s gross mismanagement on both sporting as well as financial levels is no longer a secret. The former board of directors, led by president Josep Maria Bartomeu has consistently spent inordinate amounts of money on ludicrous signings. Most of which have come to bite the club back.
Now, they find themselves in a stickier situation than ever, with an astronomically high wage bill and multiple liabilities to clubs across Europe for signings. In addition, Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona hangs in the balance. If the club are to conduct any business whatsoever, it will have to begin by offloading a few players.
After Ronald Koeman arrived at the club following the disastrous end to the 2019-20 season, a few key names have already been sold. As the initiation of a rebuilding process, Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, Nelson Semedo, and Ivan Rakitic were all sold. However, these departures have hardly put a dent in Barcelona’s debt.
That being said, Barça Universal takes a look at three potential sales that might help the club with their finances. Players who may not be key parts of the sporting project long term and whose departures will allow for some breathing room in the wage structure, and allow Barcelona to sign a huge talent such as Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland.
It would be a rather disappointing conclusion to what was potentially a wonderful signing. Samuel Umtiti, after signing for Barcelona, was rapidly rising up the ranks as one of the world’s best centre-backs. After his move from Lyon in 2016, he was flying high and quickly displayed why he staked a claim into the Blaugrana’s starting lineup.
But the Frenchman’s fairytale would come to an abrupt halt. After a fantastic second season with Barcelona, Umtiti suffered an injury to his left knee in 2018, just a month before the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The defender risked himself to represent his nation, and it ended up being a positive decision as France lifted the coveted prize with Umtiti as one of the key players. He decided not to have surgery as he felt it would worsen his issues.
Ever since then, despite his initial impressions, the injury woes have persisted and have led to many complications. Recurring issues with his meniscus, followed by foot injuries and many other issues, led to a massive decline in form and physicality. The centre-back was never really able to return to his brilliant best. While coach Ronald Koeman does favour the Frenchman, he is definitely not a consistently reliable presence at the back anymore.
Umtiti’s current deal with Barcelona expires in 2023, and given that he is 27 years old may work in favour of the club. He is not too old, and while he is injury-free, he could fetch Barcelona at least some money. The World Cup winner at his best is a fine player, but given the current circumstances, Barcelona can no longer afford to leave things up to chance.
Philippe Coutinho came to Spain with tremendous promise for the fans, backed up by a huge smile on his face. He was genuinely happy to be where he was. His dream of playing for Barcelona was finally a reality. But that optimism sadly did not last far too long.
The midfielder slowed down tremendously in his first full season with the Catalans. He looked out of sorts and lost in strange and unfamiliar systems. When he arrived in January of 2018 from Liverpool, he became Barcelona’s most expensive signing of all time for over €140 million. After two bad seasons and a loan spell at Bayern Munich, he was finally beginning to show small signs of promise under Ronald Koeman this term.
However, the Brazilian has also been sidelined due to a lengthy injury this season, which has extended into worse news. In addition to that, Liverpool are reportedly one of the clubs that Barcelona still owe money to in variables for Coutinho’s transfer. They will be keen on avoiding any more liabilities. And since Coutinho has obviously not come anywhere close to providing a return on Barcelona’s investment in him, his time at the club may be up.
He is also one of the highest earners in the squad, therefore selling him might be imperative.
The midfielder turned right-back has been a polarising figure in the Barcelona fans’ eyes for quite some time now. The 29-year-old’s current contract with Barcelona is set to run out next year and has a release clause of a massive €500 million. Roberto has made some amazing memories with the club, most prominently, his iconic goal against PSG in 2017’s famous ‘Remontada’.
However, since then he has been more or less showing that he is mostly just a utility player. The Spaniard has been unremarkable in a fair few games and has often made rather costly errors. Over time however, he had certainly become one of the heavyweights in the dressing room, which obviously reflects in his salary. This season, he has been struggling with a thigh injury, which he recovered from but then relapsed.
He was a valuable asset to have in the absence of a full fledged right-back who has the so-called ‘Barcelona DNA’. However, with the arrival of Sergino Dest, parting ways with Roberto makes sense from both sporting and financial perspectives.
While Roberto might not be among the players who have constantly underperformed but selling him might be a logical decision for Barcelona because as a player who can play in multiple positions across the pitch, and is in his theoretical prime, the Spaniard will be in demand. Football today requires for players to adapt in various positions and roles, and we have seen Roberto’s capability with the same.
Additionally, as one of the captains of the team, the La Masia graduate might be able to lease off a more than decent amount of cash. Several top teams in the market, including Juventus, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and PSG, among others, might be vouching for a right-back soon and could look towards Sergi Roberto.
However, there are also more players like Jordi Alba, Junior Firpo and Neto who could be smart sales. Alba has also been declining rapidly but his offensive output has not yet been replaced. Firpo is already linked to a move away to various clubs after failing to impress at Barcelona. In a nutshell, the Blaugrana certainly have options to sell, in order to continue the rebuild effectively. Easing the financial load by selling and eventually making way for more sensible transfers will be vital for this transitioning side.