The thought of Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona still lingers in the club’s mind since the summer fiasco. If it were up to him, the Argentine would already be playing football in a different team, most likely Manchester City. But it wasn’t up to him, luckily for the Catalans.
This time around, however, they no longer have a say in the matter. With the turn of the year, Messi now officially has just six months remaining on his current deal, meaning he’s free to negotiate with other teams for his services in the summer. The question still remains – will he do so or is he planning to stay at Barcelona?
In his most recent interview, Messi confessed the decision isn’t made and won’t be made until the summer. That also rules out a January move for the veteran star, a relief for all Barcelona aficionados. But if he were to leave in six month’s time, where would he go and what are his options in the first place?
SPORT tacked the matter recently, stating there are four in total ahead of the Argentine. The first and the most obvious one is staying put at the Camp Nou. We know Messi loves Barcelona and Barcelona love Messi.
After all, it’s the proven winning formula that’s served both parties well over the years gone by. However, it’s also a very unstable relationship at the moment, one that’s equally far away from collapsing as it is from prospering once more.
The appointment of a new president could help Messi in making the final decision. This, however, requires a promising sporting project, something that’s been lacking in Catalonia for years now. The likes of Joan Laport and Victor Font are the frontrunners for the position and both have plans that involve the Argentine as well as the reinvigoration of the club and restoration of their core values.
Will it be enough to change Messi’s mind? That remains to be seen. The other three options are lucrative moves to different countries. Manchester City are still in the race for Leo’s signature and playing under Pep Guardiola once again is something Messi is surely keen on.
Whenever he speaks of his former coach, Leo is full of praise and admiration. The Citizens may not be the powerhouse that swept through the Premier League a couple of years back anymore but with Messi and Pep riding together again, the sky could be the limit.
This move would also finally settle the age-old debate of whether Leo can perform in a different, more physically demanding league such as the English top-flight. He may be in his 30s already but that would still be a sight to behold.
The third option is a move to Paris Saint-Germain to reunite with Neymar Jr. This specific transfer has garnered a lot of interest lately and seems to be a prerequisite for the Brazilian to stay in France. We know Leo and Ney are still good friends who consistently keep in touch and the latter himself has stated recently that he wants to play with the Argentine once more in his career.
At the moment, with Barcelona’s current financial situation, that seems more plausible at Parc des Princes than the Camp Nou. But can PSG keep Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, bring in Mauricio Pochettino and also chase Messi on top of that?
They have money, that much is certain, but even for them, that could potentially be a stretch. Finally, we have the MLS option, which comes as a bit of a surprise but is viable nonetheless.
Messi himself has recently stated that playing across the pond is a sort of a milestone for him so maybe we can expect it to happen at some point in the remainder of his glorious career. Of course, despite the MLS’ resurgence, it still feels more like a retirement run than a new challenge for the greatest player of all time.
Perhaps he sees it as such as well. Many have followed in those same footsteps at the twilight of their careers and Messi could be no different. However, with so much still to offer to football on the highest level, maybe it’s premature to talk about going to America just yet.
Either way, it is an option and a real one at that. Six months is not a long time but for Barcelona, it will feel like an eternity until Leo finally gives us an answer.
Whatever he chooses, it will be with the club’s best interest at heart. For that reason, we should support him either way.
The Copa del Rey could be Barcelona’s only saving grace this season
With the league out of sight, and the Champions League a distant dream, the Copa del Rey could be the saving grace Barcelona are looking for this season.
As much as it wrenches a Culés‘ heart to see the club they once witnessed conquer Europe with all it’s might now look like a pale shadow of its former self, it’s also vital to come to terms with the fact that Barça are still in the process of recovery, patching their wounds while attempting to rediscover its former glory.
Winning the Champions League and La Liga will invariably be the main motive at a club as big as Barcelona. Still, for once, the chances of contending with Europe’s elite seems immensely slim, especially with the continuous spells of inconsistencies the Azulgranas have endured this season.
Woefully, the club have also made it a customary practice to flounder against relatively bigger oppositions, cracking under pressure in amateur fashion. It’s safe to assume these old habits will once again die hard.
It might be a little too late to kickstart a challenge for the league, as Atletico Madrid do not appear to be showing any signs of slowing down in the league and teams like Bayern Munich and Manchester City are always major forces to reckon with in the Champions League. Not to mention, last year’s finalists – PSG – await Barça in the round of 16, who will undoubtedly be a tough nut to crack over the two legs. Having a shot against established sides in one of the club’s most vulnerable states does not seem plausible in the slightest.
However, despite the chances of winning the two big trophies looking ever so minuscule, the Copa Del Rey stands in solitude, waiting to reconcile with the team that has one way or another always found itself reclaiming this esteemed trophy as it habitually dresses in the Blaugrana colours at the end of the campaign.
Having been knocked out disgracefully in the Spanish Super Cup finals, the Copa del Rey may end up being a crucial source of silverware for the Catalan giants. The prize may not be as notable as the aforementioned competitions, yet it undeniably holds value and possesses the ability to save Barcelona’s turbulent season.
Albeit there’s no guaranteeing the road to success will be a stroll in the park for the Blaugranas, it’s apparent that the situation has been made considerably easier, as the fickle finger of fate blesses Barça’s fortunes with the shocking exits of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Additionally, the fact that Sevilla square up against Valencia and Real Betis lock horns with Real Sociedad implies that two prominent teams will be forced to bid farewell to the competition in the next round, making Barça’s road to the final substantially less complicated.
While the Copa Del Rey’s primary stages are typically utilized to award youngsters and players from the B team opportunities with the first team, Ronald Koeman understandably appears to be opting for his best players in the upcoming round of 16 clash against Rayo Vallecano, who sit at 4th place in the Segunda Division.
Owing to the fact that two of Spain’s biggest teams have already departed the competition indicates that there is simply no margin for error and seeing how even the underdogs cannot be underestimated, Barca must use this as a lesson to showcase their winning mentality, even against sides from the lower divisions.
“It is an important moment of the season, we are doing well away from home. We will put up a strong line-up tomorrow. We know that the Cup is the shortest way to win something.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-game press conference
For a team that has basked in silverware and has reigned supreme on the big stage for years, it’s absolutely quintessential to get back to winning ways. After a season full of turmoil, the Copa Del Rey is the least Barça should salvage. With the context perfect for victory, the acclaimed Spanish Competition could very well be Barça’s saving grace this season, and possibly sow the seeds for success.
Of course, it is too soon to write Barça off in any competition yet, but if there’s one thing the club have proven time and time again, it is that they are still a serious work in progress. That said, the Copa Del Rey would be a respectable achievement for Barcelona during these troubling times. Although it may seem as if it is simply an acceptance of mediocrity, the cup would be a great stepping stone for the future, a chance to not only lift silverware again; but also to get into the habit of winning.