Even a season back, the prospect of Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona was next to impossible.
However, after losing the La Liga title race to arch-rivals, Real Madrid and unsure of progressing further in the Champions League on current form, the Catalan giants could be staring at the very real prospect of having their talisman take the exit door.
It’s been a season of discontent at the Camp Nou, with Barcelona finishing with 82 points in La Liga, five short of what Los Blancos managed.
Clearly miffed and exasperated at Barcelona’s underwhelming season, Lionel Messi let his feelings known after a defeat to Osasuna at home saw the Catalans concede the La Liga title to Real Madrid.
The Barcelona captain, who scored from a trademark free-kick in the game, said the level of performance must improve quickly if they are to have any chance of winning the Champions League.
“This game (Osasuna defeat) represents the entire year. We’ve been an erratic and a weak team.”
Lionel Messi further said that Barcelona helped Real Madrid to the La Liga title and urged everyone associated with the club to be self-critical.
“Madrid did its part by winning all its matches, which is impressive, but we also helped them to win this league. We have to be critical of how we have played, starting with the players and the rest of the club. We’ve lost because of our mistakes and not because of Madrid’s successes.”
Defensive lapses have cost Barcelona dearly this season, and the Argentine superstar was seen in an animated conversation with the club’s defenders during a break in the match against Mallorca, which the Catalans won 4-0.
While there are rumours linking him to glamour clubs almost every year, with top suitors open to breaking the bank to the lure the footballing demigod, the buzz around his exit has grown shriller this year.
The six-time Ballon D’ Or winner’s contract with Barcelona would be up for renewal in 2021 and two clubs with the fattest purses in world football – Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain – are rumoured to be chasing him.
With the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Phillipe Coutinho failing to hit the ground running at the Camp Nou, Lionel Messi has been under more pressure to score as well as provide assists.
Once a prolific scorer, even Uruguayan marksman Luis Suarez seems to have lost a step or two. The defence has also leaked goals, adding to the club’s worries.
It has also been rumoured that Lionel Messi’s father, Jorge, who also doubles up as his agent, could be negotiating a switch to Italian giants, Inter Milan.
The rumours gained ground after it was claimed that lured by the lower tax rates in Italy, Lionel Messi’s father could move to a property in Milan’s Porta Nova neighbourhood.
However, Nerazzurri manager, Antonio Conte has already laughed off the reports of the Argentina international moving to the San Siro.
Lionel Messi wants Marcelo Bielsa at Barcelona
It has been also reported that Lionel Messi may have lost faith in current Barcelona manager, Quique Setien. The Argentine ace is believed to have told the club management that he wants compatriot Marcelo Bielsa at the Camp Nou.
71-year-old Bielsa is currently the toast of West Yorkshire, having lifted Leeds United to the top flight of English football after a 16-year spell away from the Premier League.
A shrewd and celebrated manager, one doubts if he would pass up an offer to coach Barcelona. However, it’s unlikely he would do so without the experience of managing a club of Leeds’ stature in the Premier League.
While the rumours surrounding Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona will never go away, the club hierarchy would have to plug the defensive holes and make wise purchases in the transfer window to tie him down in Catalonia.
Also Read: Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig: Barcelona’s symbol of hope