For over the last decade, Lionel Messi has been the one, indisputable source of stability at FC Barcelona.
Yes, there have been a few contractual changes along the way, but every Barcelona fan knew in their heart that their captain won’t be leaving, that he’d retire happily at his boyhood club.
On Tuesday, the perfect dream shattered to a million pieces. The security evaporated in a heartbeat. Lionel Messi — as confirmed by almost all top media outlet — sent Barcelona the official letter of intent, stating clearly that he wanted to leave Camp Nou, and for free.
Reportedly, Barcelona, too, sent back an official reply, insisting that Messi didn’t have grounds to leave and would only be released when his €700m buyout clause is triggered.
What does the future hold for Lionel Messi, Barcelona and La Liga?
Barcelona and Lionel Messi haven’t yet made the open secret public, but an official announcement seems imminent at the time. The relation between the club and their captain has finally hit rock bottom and co-existence seems to be a distant dream.
Amid all the chaos, uncertainty, and potential court hearings, another aspect is gradually coming to the fore — the bigger picture, if you will. If Messi actually ends up leaving the Blaugrana, La Liga would officially be without any multiple Ballon d’Or winners, just like most of the other leagues on the planet.
Without the two greatest footballers of this era butting heads, Spain’s famous El Clasico lost some of its usual charisma. It didn’t become drab, of course, but seeing the two generational talents was always a privilege.
After Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, Lionel Messi tried to keep the magic alive with his scintillation goalscoring and mesmerising passing pedigree.
He won the Pichichi and also emerged as the most creative force in the division. In La Liga, he’s often been the only driving force for Barcelona, saving them time and again from embarrassing scorelines.
The league, of course, has also benefitted greatly from his grandeur. They have always had the privilege of focussing on one of the greatest players in history, reminding the fans why they tuned in to La Liga every single week.
For the broadcasters, Lionel Messi has been nothing but an all-powerful golden ticket — a get-out-of-jail-free card that ends broadcasting slumps in a heartbeat.
For the last half a decade, Messi has been subjected to criticism in Europe, for not stepping up to the plate when the chips were down. He’s always replied with humility, assuring that the next year would be better.
This year, against Bayern Munich, Barcelona endured their worst ever single-leg defeat in the competition, conceded 8 goals in the Champions League for the first time.
Lionel Messi was nothing but a silent spectator on the night, and his team-mates, too, didn’t do anything to empower him. He probably had made up his mind after the final whistle.
After Quique Setien’s dismissal and Ronald Koeman’s subsequent appointment, Messi finally pulled the trigger. He sent in a burofax, asked Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, to let him activate his release clause. What happened next is anybody’s guess at the moment.
Irrespective of how it plays out, Barcelona and Messi can’t possibly come out of this altercation unscathed. Both are likely to find it difficult to adjust to the new arrangements, new dynamics.
However, neither Barcelona nor Messi would be the worst hit if the deal goes through. The biggest loser, in this scenario, would definitely be La Liga — losing his most marketable player to another club.
With Lionel Messi gone, the viewership — both neutrals and fans — would take a major hit. El Clasico’s, too, won’t have the undetermined “Messi factor” in them.
And finally, La Liga won’t be able to call itself the home to the generation’s most successful footballer — Lionel Messi.