After having forced Lionel Messi to stay against his desire, what is next for the Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu? He is highly unlikely to resign, but his reputation has been badly damaged.
Barcelona can finally let out a sigh of relief.
We have, at long last, come to the end of the most bizarre football transfer saga of all time. Lionel Messi, in an interview with Goal, confessed on Friday that he will stay at Barcelona for the 2020/21 season, even though he, and we cannot stress this enough, really did not want to.
This decision comes after a series of record-breaking tweets and google searches, press releases, countless rumours and not to forget, Burofaxes. Each report contradicted the other, but yesterday Barça fans felt the final dagger to their heart when Messi’s father and agent, Jorge Messi, announced that the €700 million release clause in his contract had expired and was not valid after the end of the 2019/20 sporting season.
Soon after that, though, it was released that Messi has decided to stay and his decision would soon be revealed through an interview conducted by Goal. What fans thought was going to be another boring announcement video took a 180 degree turn real fast.
Messi explained that his decision to leave Barcelona did not stem from their 8–2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but that it was a calculated decision which had been in the works all year. He said that it was time to step aside and that the new generation took over, something “the president” agreed to initially, but then went back on his word.
Lionel Messi confirmed that he is staying at Barcelona, but the drama with Bartomeu is far from over | Photo by Aitor Alcalde via Getty Images
The Barcelona captain did not pull any shots during this interview and added that this saga had allowed him to see a lot of fake people, which could be a direct reference at Josep Maria Bartomeu and the Barçagate scandal. He also referred to the board as a disaster who keep covering up holes year after year instead of coming up with proper solutions.
If we come back to Messi’s contract, it explicitly states that he could leave for free this season, but with the calendar being shaken by the coronavirus, it would imply taking the club to court. His legal situation was entirely waterproof and could have asked FIFA to issue an international transfer certificate, but The Guardian reports that it was a route that neither he nor Manchester City were willing to explore.
Ultimately, the Argentine’s loyalty was brought into question, and his untethering love for the club did not allow him to take legal measures or pursue a shady option.
“It doesn’t matter when I leave or for how long I stay; my love for Barça is everlasting”Lionel Messi
We do not know what Lionel Messi is going to do next year: he turns 34, and even though there are little doubts over his ability and legacy, it might be too late to play in the Premier League. And after Friday’s announcement – as much as it breaks fans’ heart – it is hard to imagine him in the Garnet and Blue after the end of next season, even if a new board or president comes in.
That, however, is not the only question that remains in our minds. The other one is: where does Josep Maria Bartomeu go from here?
Messi has, single-handedly, done more for the club through an 18-minute video than the management has in the last six years. Not only has he decided to stay – a decision that will rejoice the fans –, he has possibly taken down the most hated figure in Barcelona history. As the captain of the club, the decision to do this could have gone either way for the number 10, but the silence had to be broken, and there could be not a lot of other ways to do it.
As for Bartomeu, there are not many avenues left for anyone when the greatest, most respected player of all time, the top scorer of the club and the club captain targets you directly.
The club president has become a really unpopular figure among Barcelona players, and fans, with the footballers hitting out at the board in a subtle manner. This includes Gerard Piqué’s statements after the game against Bayern, where he suggested that the club needs to change things from inside out, but then added that he was not only talking about the players and managers.
“The club needs changes and I am not talking about the coach or the players. I don’t want to point at anyone. Structurally we need changes of all kinds, because it is neither the first nor the second nor the third time”Gerard Piqué
This goes further back, though. Lionel Messi and the players hit out at Bartomeu during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic saying that they did, in fact, accept salary cuts even though the board suggested otherwise.
To top all of this, according to reports published on Thursday, the president is being brought up on charges of corruption for his involvement in the Barçagate scandal – where news outlets were paid in excessive amounts to publish false, degrading reports about players and figures related to Barcelona. He could face fine, forced resignation and even time in jail if need be.
There are few people as shameless as Bartomeu in the world of sports, and there are is no place where he can hide his face now. He needs to speak up, address everything going on at the club, explain why he would keep the most extraordinary athlete as a prisoner before putting pen to paper that confirms his resignation.
Lionel Messi deserves better than this. Ronald Koeman, Quique Setién, Ernesto Valverde, Luis Enrique, Pep Guardiola deserved more than this. FC Barcelona deserves more than this. But, more importantly, the fans who worship the club as the institution it is deserve more than this.
Barcelona has sold four players: now it’s time to sign
Rakitic, Vidal, Suarez, Semedo. Barcelona have sold quite a few players but have not replaced them yet.
The transfer window is always an exciting time, where big teams go after the best players of the last season, and the weaker sides try to hold on to their best prospects, most of the time in vain. Usually, when a European giant has an awful season, they have a massive rebuild with big signings and other significant sales. The players that have come at the end of the cycle are often replaced for newer and fresher blood to take place, and that’s the beauty of the game.
This summer was supposed to be Barcelona’s rebuild, like 2008 or 2014. 2020. The year Barcelona lost all three trophies, losing to Athletic Club in the quarters of the Copa Del Rey, giving away La Liga like it was nothing, and suffering the club’s most humiliating defeat in its history, an 8-2 battering handed by Bayern. Barcelona’s 2020 squad was the end of a cycle, and, much like 2014, it ended badly.
In 2014, Barcelona had an excellent transfer window, buying Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Marc-André Ter Stegen, and Claudio Bravo en route to a second treble in the club’s history, a record only equaled by Bayern Munich in 2020. This year, Barcelona had to go quickly, and it was clear that they had to sell the deadwood even before the pandemic. However, the pandemic changed everything, and Barcelona’s, along with everyone’s, finances plummeted, and soon enough, the dreams of signings became a long-lost memory. At least there were the departures.
Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, Jeremy Mathieu and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen of FC Barcelona acknowledge the FC Barcelona supporters during the new FC Barcelona players presentation | Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Indeed, Barcelona dearly needed departures as the squad’s heavyweights gained more and more power while declining heavily physically. Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic, three of the most overused Blaugrana players over the past two years have left and have contributed next to nothing in terms of transfer fees, even if getting their astronomical wages off the books is the most significant relief a Culé could get nowadays. The club’s wage bill is so high that they had to offload those players, even if they didn’t get the big bucks for them. Fortunately, the money came from England, as it usually does, with Nelson Semedo joining his Portuguese teammates at Wolves to replace Matt Doherty, who went to Spurs earlier this summer. These sales are brilliant in every aspect of the game, and now Barça have to focus on signings, and that before the game against Villarreal on Sunday.
Barcelona needed to get rid of these four players, and there are many more who could (should?) leave before the end of the window, but Barcelona have to focus on getting players who are ready to impress at Camp Nou. The recent rumours regarding Sergiño Dest replacing Semedo are excellent to hear, but where is he? Also, where are the other replacements? The other great players supposed to put Barça back on top?
Don’t get it twisted, Barcelona’s squad isn’t half bad. Dest would improve the team, but since Riqui Puig is not going to be used as much as he should under Ronald Koeman this term and Monchu has been sent on a permanent deal disguised as a loan to Girona, who are really the options for Barcelona in midfield? Will Aleña have the chance to impress this time out? Will Pedri be used as much as he was in pre-season? Or will the Catalan giants buy another Miralem Pjanic to close the path of Riqui Puig? How are Barcelona supposed to compete if their squad is way thinner, and they’re not inclined to bet on youth?
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Also, forget about the midfield, but who will be the striker on Sunday, and for 20/21? Who will replace Suarez, a 20-goal-a-season striker who became a nuisance in the squad but still had decent stats? Is Griezmann that kind of striker? Of course not. So where are the replacements? Where is Memphis Depay? The Dutchman was rumoured to have signed for Barcelona a few weeks ago but Jean-Michel Aulas, the Lyon president, revealed that the Culés had no money. And where is Eric Garcia, the La Masia graduate who’s supposed to return home but Barcelona are not able to generate the kind of money Man City want, which is 18 million Euros — by the way, peanuts in this market.
With all these interrogations coming up, it’s fair to say Barcelona have to act quickly to buy the players they need because they’re not getting any more lifelines in Europe. The first stage motion of censure has already been successful, and if Bartomeu has any pride left in him, he has to nail this transfer window, at least this one! Until then, let’s hope Barcelona don’t go into Europe with basically the same lineup that started the quarter-final against Bayern about a month ago.