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Analysis

Why can’t La Liga afford to lose Lionel Messi?

Anurag Agate

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Header Image by Josep Lago / AFP via Getty Images

As La Liga and president Javier Tebas have released a statement defending Barcelona in the contractual battle with Lionel Messi, there are numerous reasons why losing the Argentinian star would be a very hard blow for the Spanish league.


As most people have already seen, the photo of a young Barcelona fan sitting on the pavement near Barcelona’s training grounds has gone viral. The best player ever to grace the sport of football looks like he will leave the club which has been his home for around two decades. The fact that we might not see the number 10 blaugrana shirt the distraught fan was wearing with the name Messi across the back on the field again is a terrifying thought for most people. The recent drama surrounding Barcelona’s board has revealed one thing: Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona will heavily affect much more than just Barça. Messi leaving will affect La Liga immensely as well as the fans watching the Spanish league.

Taking a look at list Forbes published of the highest-earning players, the seriousness of the situation can be loosely expressed by numbers. Among the top earners, we see two of the best players to ever play football, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo’s exit from La Liga already depreciated some of the star power that it had. The next player from La Liga after Messi is his teammate Antoine Griezmann. At which spot? 60th. That means that after Valencia’s Rodrigo Moreno leaving for Leeds and Messi’s potential exit, La Liga won’t have a single player in the top 50.

This isn’t to say that La Liga doesn’t have highly talented players. Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, Jan Oblak, Raphaël Varane, Eden Hazard are all incredibly talented. However, there is still a difference between how talented a player is and how large their market appeal is. That is the core reason why Messi’s exit could cause La Liga a lot of problems.

La Liga has been losing too many stars in recent years | Photo by Michael Steele via Getty Images

With the contractual differences that Barcelona and Messi have, La Liga made a statement which basically asserted that the club is in the right here. Legal aspects apart, La Liga in itself can’t afford to let Messi leave. The amount of fans Messi has is incredible. From war-torn countries to the favelas of Brazil to the urban landscapes in Europe to the emerging football fans in Asia, Lionel Messi is synonymous with Barcelona and vice versa.

For Barça, some small positives such as the wage bill being reduced or dependence on Messi not existing can be thought of, which aren’t positives if you consider the amount of revenue Messi brings in to Barcelona with his market appeal and performances. For La Liga, it’s a complete loss if they lose Messi. Within a few years, the Spanish league would have lost two of the best players to ever play along with highly talented players with a cult following such as Rodrigo, Santi Cazorla, Éver Banega, Neymar Júnior and potentially Luis Suárez.

From a footballing standpoint, the situation is manageable. There will still be talented, world-class players in La Liga. Nonetheless, from a financial standpoint, it is looking like a disaster. For some of La Liga’s teams, the TV deals make up for over 80% of their earnings. For bigger clubs such as Real and Barca, this figure is around 30%. La Liga had around 76 million viewers per match in 2018 and this is something that enables the smaller teams to conduct their business safely. Now, take away the only player La Liga has in the top 50 richest. The result is only going to be detrimental. Apart from TV broadcasting contracts, Messi leaving could affect the smaller clubs or clubs with financially strict arrangements heavily. It would be a situation in which they would either have to restructure financially very fast or they could possibly face heavy losses.

Lionel Messi is more than a footballer. His presence has transcended the sport and his influence is immense. For La Liga to lose a player who has become the identity of La Liga after the shared spotlight with Cristiano Ronaldo came to an end, it is nothing short of a catastrophe. All in all, nobody better than the president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, helps to summarise the situation.

“Messi is the best player in the history of football. We have been fortunate to have always had him in our league. I believe that Messi’s departure would be noticeable. Of course, more if he left to play another league”

Javier Tebas

18, living in India, obsessed with Barcelona and Spanish football. I am into football in any form: watching, playing, reading about, writing about...In particular, I'm very interested in youth football, especially La Masía. I try to learn more about the tactical side of football as well.

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Analysis

Sergio Busquets’ form: Age or complacency?

Lewis Shankie

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Photo by AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO

Sergio Busquets is a club legend and is arguably the best holding midfielder of his generation. However, for a couple of seasons, the veteran has been far from his best. Is it time for Barça to realise that the Spaniard should not be an undisputed starter anymore?


For almost a decade, Sergio Busquets was the consistent and dependable anchor in a world-class midfield. At just 20 years old, Busquets made his debut under Pep Guardiola. He would go on to be a crucial part of two treble-winning sides and form one-third of the greatest midfield trio ever with Andrés Iniesta and Xavi. Busquets was the perfect holding midfielder for the Catalan side.

In recent seasons, however, his performances have deteriorated, and he has not been at his level best. Or even at an adequate level for the Blaugrana. While he managed to redeem himself with the first half of last season, this campaign, Busquets has found it even tougher with having to adapt to the double pivot system. His partnership with Frenkie De Jong is not working as the two do not seem to understand each other’s game. After another poor display against Real Madrid, and with other talented midfielders on the bench, should Busquets still be starting for Barça?

The brilliance of Sergio Busquets

It would be unfair to write an article solely criticising Sergio Busquets. As one of the greatest servants in the club’s history, Busquets deserves a huge amount of respect from Culés. The La Masia graduate broke into the first team at a young age and has been an ever-present since his debut season. He has gone on to become Barça’s fifth-most capped player in history and will likely take over Carles Puyol who is in fourth.

The Spaniard has been a key figure in the most successful period in the club’s history too. The same can be said for his time with the national team, winning the World Cup in 2010 and the UEFA European Championship in 2012. In total, the midfielder has won a behemoth 31 trophies with Barcelona including three Champions Leagues and eight league titles.

Busi has had several moments of celebrations at Barça. (Photo by AFP PHOTO/LLUIS GENE)

At his peak, there has arguably never been a better defensive midfielder. He redefined the role by showing that it was not just about tackling and breaking up play, but how the holding midfielder can be heavily involved in the build-up play and can dictate the tempo of the game.

Opponents quickly learned that it was almost pointless to press Busquets while Barcelona were in possession. His composure on the ball was and still is for the most part unmatched, while the passes were extremely accurate, progressive and have the ability to break the lines of defence.

He had exceptional awareness and ability to read the game, which was second to none; however, they have taken a massive toll. What once allowed him to take over the game with the utmost ease is slowly becoming his weakness at Barcelona.

Busquets was exceptional in every team, every year. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Current form

Sergio Busquets has not been at his best for several seasons now, and the time may have finally come when the team realises that his starting spot is no longer undisputed. This campaign especially, the 32-year-old has not managed to adapt to the new system. He is used to playing at the base in a midfield three.

Now, he shares the defensive midfield role with Frenkie de Jong in a double pivot. Neither player has performed close to their best, and it seems as if this partnership, that should work on paper, is not compatible.

Unfortunately, the problem reeks past just the structure of the team; the World Cup winner is struggling with some of the basics as well. His passing has started to him down every game, and his sloppy possession is giving away the ball in dangeorus areas of the pitch too many times. For his high standards, he is losing the ball far too often.

Busquets is lacking, and it is hurting the team. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

Against Real Madrid, Busquets made a criminal error in his defensive duties. The veteran knows how important this match is and was one of the most experienced players on the pitch. But, whether due to a lack of awareness or complacency, he failed to track Federico Valverd’s run. It resulted in Barcelona conceding an early goal. The experienced midfielder should know better, especially in a game as important as El Clásico.

Age or Complacency?

As one of the Barcelona captains, Sergio Busquets should be a leader on the pitch and set an example to the rest of the team. However, his level has significantly dropped, and he has been involved in several catastrophic defeats. The game against Los Blancos is part of a growing list of big games where the #5 has let down the fans and his teammates.

Busquets was never the most athletic midfielder, but he always made up for this with his intelligence. His age could be a reason for his poor run of form as his physical attributes begin to decline naturally. However, he should grasp a better understanding of the game as he loses more of his pace.

One can always argue that is complacency catching up with the 32-year-old for his innumerable trophies and his world-class performances in the last decade. But, the likes of Gerard Pique, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta or Xavi never went through this despite being part of the same era of Barcelona’s generational team.

Busquets has managed to maintain his high level for the Spanish National Team. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Moreover, somehow, Busquets continues to perform at an exceptional level for the Spanish national team, playing under former Barça manager Luis Enrique. Maybe Lucho is more tactically adept, and maybe the dressing room for the national team is far less toxic. We can only sit and speculate. That said, with competition for places in the Blaugrana squad, can Ronald Koeman continue to justify Busquets’ starting role in the team?

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