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The worst possible breakup to a 20-year marriage

Maha Naeem Khan



Header Image by David Ramos via Getty Images

Having arrived in Barcelona as a 13-year-old in 2000, the relationship between Lionel Messi and his beloved club is now breaking up after the captain’s definitive message to the board through a burofax.

Does your heart miss a beat by the thought of seeing somebody else in the Barça number 10 or, instead, not seeing anybody wearing the Barça number 10 jersey, ever? If not, then, as a Barca fan you have never romanticised with FC Barcelona, right? Are you the one who over the past few days felt burofax updates anxiety gripping but you kept reading through again and again regardless because somewhere deep inside you wanted all of it to be a nightmare or fake propaganda since it seemed too unreal?

Well, the current fiasco took culés back in time and they started longing for the good days and everything about them. Days when major problems were either players’ injuries or losing a streak of winning matches and failing to defeat the rivals. Nobody wanted to end up where it all is currently, at least not at a burofax? If you haven’t heard of burofax in the past couple of days, then either you are not into sports let alone football, or you might not have a Twitter account.

In case you are still not aware of what a burofax is and why Barça fans are in an absolute miserable state then you must know that the current circumstances show that Barcelona’s number 10, the Argentine star, the blaugranas‘ heart, Lionel Andrés Messi is all set to say a final goodbye after twenty years, leaving the club’s future in limbo. Imagine it and your heart starts missing some beats, doesn’t it?

Born in Argentina, Lionel Messi arguably came into the world to be a footballer. The start wasn’t easy, the journey wasn’t throne free. He conquered the challenges, he overcame the difficulties. For all it mattered, to end up becoming a one-club man.

Lionel Messi Barcelona burofax

The sad melody of what seems a goodbye with no way back | Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP via Getty Images

Messi started his football career back in 1995 at the youth system of Newell’s Old which is a Rosario-based club when he was only 8 years old. He was recognisably the most thrilling player among others. However, little Messi’s dream to pursue his passion for football came crashing down when was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency. Jorge and Ceclia, Messi’s parents, didn’t have enough money to provide for his treatment. It was when the boy and FC Barcelona’s love story began. Messi was 13 years old when the strongest football club of that time offered to train him at their youth academy: La Masía. Not only this, but they also agreed to pay for his treatment as well.

During the trial, Leo, with his exceptional skills, enthralled Carles Rexach, who was Barcelona’s first-team director at that time. Not to mention the board members were a problem back then as well as some of them were not too pleased with this extraordinary boy. As a result, Horacio Gaggioli, who was the Argentine’s point of contact in Spain, periled to take Messi to Real Madrid if the board continued to raise issues over Messi’s signing.

After two months of back and forth visits at the club’s offices and waiting for an answer from Barcelona, Messi’s father was about to give up. Nonetheless, fate brought Josep Maria Minguella – an agent who brought many players to Barcelona – at the Pompeia del Montjuic club where Horacio Gaggiolo and Charly Rexach were already present. Minguella and Gaggiolo convinced Rexach that Messi’s future was bright and he had to answer his family immediately. Rexach was already delighted to have Messi in the team, so he grabbed a lying napkin around him right away and wrote Lionel Andrés Messi’s first contract, which says:

“In Barcelona, on 14 December 2000 and the presence of Mrs. Minguella and Horacio (Gaggioli), Carles Rexach, Director of Football of F.C.B., hereby agrees, under his responsibility and regardless of any dissenting opinions, to sign the player Lionel Messi, provided that we keep to the amounts agreed upon”.

That’s how the journey of Barça’s number 10 began with a piece of napkin and Lionel Andrés Messi finding his new home in Spain.

It was no less than a dream. The Argentine made inhumane progress climbing from Barça C to Barça B and in no time landing in the first team. From a tiny boy he turned into a grown-up man, as Messi became the world’s best footballer in Barcelona having Spanish media calling him the ‘Messiah’. In 2012, he won his fourth of a current six FIFA Ballon d’Or awards and had his name in the Guinness World Records book for scoring the most goals in a single year: 91.

Messi, as his national team’s captain, made the World Cup final in 2014 and became the youngest footballer to register a hundred appearances in the Champions League in the 2015/16 season. Messi and culés were inseparable. It was all a fantasy, a fairy tale: then how what was once a fairy tale has become a battle? How did the story starting from the napkin ending on a burofax?

Lionel Messi Barcelona burofax

From a napkin to a burofax, what seems an irrevocable exit from Lionel Messi will break many hearts | Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP via Getty Images

With his ability to play from every position, Messi took the whole team on his shoulders countless times, possibly too many in recent years. He proved himself to be a one-club man by standing firm through difficult times. Besides his teammates’ crippling performances, he successfully gave awe-inspiring performances to his fans. He has been a Messiah for the Catalans. From fighting for the rights of his colleagues to raising his voice for the injustice within the club, Messi was there: he never gave up.

On the contrary, for Messi’s die-hard fans, the club’s management has been a huge disappointment. The management horrendously failed to save the peak years of a man who surpassed the players of the highest quality. The Spanish giants’ claim to keep the world’s best player till his retirement is going to astray. The board’s decisions went down like a lead balloon to please the man who brought challenging honours for the club throughout his twenty years.

Messi’s plain silence since Champions League quarter-finals loss against Bayern Munich was enough to break many hearts, but then it had to be cherry-topped with burofax. The reasons for ending this relation not by sending a traditional message but perhaps Spain’s postal service to send an urgent document, the burofax, are countless. That said, the main ones are Barça’s internal issues, allegations’ attached with the president Josep Maria Bartomeu, new coach Ronald Koeman‘s radical decisions, and, last but not the least, the club’s disrespecting way of saying goodbye to legends like his close friend and striker Luis Suárez

Lionel Messi Barcelona burofax

“Hasta siempre comandante”. Until forever, commander | Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP via Getty Images

The story which started with the most captivating manner seems to be coming on bitter shore. Ever since the news of Messi leaving Barcelona erupted onto social media, there is a certain kind of sadness and uncertainty among the football fraternity. Ears are waiting to hear it is all a lie while eyes search for a single word from the captain himself. The thoughts of not seeing the Argentine in Barça’s number 10 shirt again demand to be buried. The brain refuses to believe what the heart knows is true. The flashbacks of happy memories at the Camp Nou cripple the imagination.

This marriage isn’t ending between the club and the greatest player of all. Historians will write this breakup most philosophically. It’s a breakup that holds great importance for every sports lover. It’s the kind of breakup every football fan will relate to. This breakup won’t be healed through medicines or therapists, the damage wrought as a result will continue to last for years to come, while Messi loyalists might take ages to accept that the number 10 is gone.

Being an occasional painter, I admire art and colors. When I first saw Lionel Messi spreading his spectrum of colours on the canvas of Camp Nou, I fell in love. Barcelona was the first club I was ever introduced to and I ended up becoming an overly emotional Barca fan. Watching them play is a distraction for me from the chaotic world outside and writing about them is a distraction from the diverse emotions inside the world of FC Barcelona.



3 Players Barcelona can sell to ease their financial burden

Aaryan Parasnis



Photos via Getty

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.

Samuel Umtiti

Big Sam no longer has what it takes to succeed at Barcelona. (Photo via Getty)

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

Coutinho has not been on the same wavelength with his teammates for months. (Photo via Getty)

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.

Sergi Roberto

The Remontada hero has been one of the constant under-performers for Barcelona. (Photo via Imago)

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.

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