IT LOOKS as though Real Madrid are going to lift their first La Liga title since 2017 and Barcelona, the reigning champions, will go into the close season resembling a family in conflict and misunderstanding.
Amid this turmoil, Lionel Messi is one year away from the end of his contract and Barca officials’ nervousness continue to grow. The “will he, won’t he” discussions are gathering pace and Messi is clearly resembling an unhappy man who wishes he was somewhere else. His body language isn’t good and he hasn’t looked a player at the very top of his game since La Liga resumed in June.
Guillem Balague, writing for the BBC website, suggested many of the rumours around Messi are untrue and although they come with the territory for a player of his profile, the little Argentinian is fed-up at the moment. But, adds Balague, Messi is not unhappy with his team-mate Antoine Griezmann and, along with Luis Suarez, regularly socialises with the Frenchman. Marca notes, however, that Griezmann and Messi are both discontent at the moment, the former displeased about his lack of game time and Messi because the season seems to slipping away from Barca.
With the ongoing political situation at the club, Messi – who has a leave clause in his current contract – may be persuaded to stay if Xavi was appointed as coach, says Eurosport. The former Barca midfielder has renewed his contract at Qatar’s Al-Saad, but he has a release clause should Barca come looking for him.
Messi is very influential at Barca and critics say he has too much involvement in events at the club. Some people have said he was instrumental in Ernesto Valverde getting sacked in January. Messi himself has said the incident was badly handled by the club. He also wants the club elections, which take place next year, fast-tracked to 2020 – probably to make his last year more harmonious.
Is there a club that could handle Messi if he does decide to leave? Eurosport reported that Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid’s coach, has urged him not to leave Barca and La Liga. The Indian Express suggested that Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City could afford him. There’s talk of him returning to Argentina with Newell’s Old Boys.
Graham Hunter, on TalkSport, believed Manchester City would go “hell for leather” to sign Messi but cautioned that Guardiola might not necessarily be as keen as the club. “I think Pep has doubts about how well Messi will work in the system because of the level of pressure and work off the ball,” says Hunter. At Barca, Messi is allowed to do exactly what he wants to do.
AS says Messi has halted contract talks, according to radio station Cadena Seri even though they were proceeding well. “Messi has told his inner circle of his frustration, complaining he does not want to be held responsible for anything than his performances on the pitch.”
Messi has been criticised for the way he deals with the coaching staff at the club. His disagreement with director of football Eric Abidal was well documented and recently, he has had problems with coach Quique Setién and Eder Sarabia. AS pointed to Messi’s out burst a few months ago when he said Barca didn’t have enough quality to win the Champions League. Setién disagreed but Messi’s response implied the Barca coach didn’t have enough experience of the competition. The Spanish newspaper believes that Messi is coming to the end of his career with Barcelona and wants to leave the club in June 2021.
What is Messi worth in the market, personal terms aside? CIES Football Observatory values the 33 year-old at around € 70 – 90 million, while KPMG Football Benchmark goes considerably higher at € 127- 134 million.
Sources: Independent, AS, Marca, BBC, TalkSport, Eurosport, Indian Express