Barcelona Argentine’s future up in the air
Lionel Messi is silent as he observes and reflects on whether he should stay at Barcelona.
For the Argentine, the straw that may have broken the camel’s back was Barcelona’s 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich, one of the worst matches in the Blaugrana’s history.
Quique Setien and his coaching staff were sacked on Monday, which was quickly followed by technical director Eric Abidal’s dismissal.
Ronald Koeman came in to replace Setien and president Josep Maria Bartomeu called elections for March, while also making clear that there will be big changes as Barcelona look to address an ageing squad.
Meanwhile, Messi continues to contemplate things. Above all, he wants to lead a project that is capable of fighting for every trophy available.
We at MARCA have spoken to some former players and directors who have left their mark at Barcelona to see what they think about Messi’s future at the Camp Nou.
The only one who is clear that he is going to stay no matter what is Joan Gaspart, the former president who brought him to Barcelona.
« I do not believe that Messi is considering anything other staying at Barcelona, » Gaspart told MARCA.
« Now we are in time in which there’s not a lot of news and for that reason things of this style come out, but I know that Leo is very happy at Barcelona and in Barcelona, with all of his family.
« I have no news that says otherwise, so I do not believe that Messi is considering other than staying.
« I’m not around the Messi family all day right now, but I know that they intend to continue.
« This is more about the press and the people who don’t like us.
« You have to sell news and, since this result humiliated everyone at Barcelona, it sells a lot.
« But what do we do? Do we shoot ourselves or do we look ahead?
« As I usually say, every day the sun rises.
« In the 30 years I was at the club, I went through much worse situations than this.
« What happens is that memory weakens [these moments] a lot.
« Nobody remembers the Motin del Hesperia where the footballers asked for [Josep Lluis] Nunez’s head or the lost finals in Seville and Athens, which were also very hard.
« Now everyone is getting mad because eight goals have been conceded.
« If it had been lost by a single goal, there wouldn’t have been such a fuss. »
Carles Rexach pointed to the fact that Barcelona having an ageing squad as one of the reasons for the collapse against Bayern.
« It has been a major shock but within the importance it has, which is a lot, we must remember that this is an abnormal situation, » Rexach explained to MARCA.
« We’ve come to a completely different end of the season.
« First we have played LaLiga, then the Champions League, all without a crowd and even with some new rules.
« This has affected the team a lot.
« And I think that Barcelona even more because they have a group of seniors, so to speak.
« They find it more difficult to start, stop and then start again.
« An 18-year-old player plays a game after a month’s rest and does just as well, but it’s not the same for players over 30.
« The result against Bayern was very heavy; if they’d lost 2-1, we wouldn’t be like this, but the truth is that the drop has been remarkable.
« It is important to rejuvenate the team.
« But, to be fair, we have to admit that Barcelona have tried with the arrivals of players like [Frenkie] De Jong, [Ousmane] Dembele, [Philippe] Coutinho and [Antoine] Griezmann.
« For various reasons it hasn’t worked, it’s been bad luck, but the signings were made so that the squad wouldn’t be so old. »
Toni Freixa, a candidate for the elections at Barcelona in March 2021, is clear that Messi should accept some of his team-mates leaving in order for the team to improve.
« He shouldn’t be angry with the possible departures of team-mates like [Luis] Suarez, [Jordi] Alba or [Arturo] Vidal because others of the same level will arrive, » Freixa said to MARCA.
« I don’t think it’s a personal matter.
« It’s the law of life and football to make these kinds of changes and he has to understand that whatever comes will be to strengthen the club.
« I disagree with the people who say Messi wants to dictate things; he wants Barcelona to win and be well surrounded [on the pitch]. »
« Messi isn’t asking for more money, he’s aiming for those who are by his side to allow him to win trophies, » Freixa added.
« He started playing in 2005 and, since then, he has won four Champions Leagues, several league [titles], Copa del Rey trophies, six Ballon d’Ors and six Golden Boots… he has a habit of winning and he doesn’t want to lose it. It’s as simple as that.
« There are people who say that players don’t feel like running, but that’s a lie.
« They’re professionals in the sport who want to win because it’s better for them.
« With the victories they have more recognition, better retribution… Messi is the best and he wants to continue being so. »
Jose Maria Minguella, a former agent who was involved in many deals with Barcelona, makes the point that the problems at Barcelona run deeper than just Messi vs 11 players on the other team.
« [People are] speaking a lot about how they have only won one Champions League out of the last nine disputed, but it is because football is not like tennis, which depends on a single sportsman, » Minguella told MARCA.
« If [Rafael] Nadal or [Roger] Federer are bad, they lose.
« In football, Messi can be bad and the team win and vice versa.
« You can be important, but it’s the group that has to make the difference.
« If Messi has done everything possible to win, he has to be calm.
« Leo must accept any departure [in terms of players leaving Barcelona], but it is clear that it will be difficult to replace key players because nobody will pay them what they are paid here.
« The current market situation complicates everything.
« I don’t think they will give up big contracts. Contracts are there to be respected.
« The problem is capital because they tried to renew the squad, they didn’t get it and now there is not much cash and a lot of needs.
« The members have to be told that the bottom has been reached, that it is going to be changed and that we have to wait for the elections [in March 2021].
« It’s up to them to be sincere so as not to deceive them. The situation is very hard.
« But Barcelona have 120 years of history and it is not necessary to become crazy due to a bad couple of years.
« With Messi in the team, everything can be solved. »
Jon Andoni Goikoetxea played in Barcelona’s ‘Dream Team’, but he isn’t afraid to point the finger at Messi.
« The targets have been diluted and he can’t be relieved of responsibility for being the best in the world, » Goikoetxea made clear to MARCA.
Miguel Angel Nadal, another member of the so-called ‘Dream Team’, he believes that a change in the dressing room could be enough to amend things.
« The elimination has been the result of a low performance, » Nadal said to MARCA.
« When you lose 8-2, there is no other explanation.
« And this is something that damages the image of the player himself, everyone and the club.
« But, with regard to what surrounds Messi, there is more to a dressing room than just the result.
« You have to try to readjust the team and try to find the balance again so that he shines again and adopts the role he has to have.
« What is clear is that Messi is good in any team. »
Gaspart, Rexach, Minguella, Nadal, Rivaldo and Sergi
For Gaspart, he wants to see Barcelona try to sign up-and-coming players rather than those who are close to Messi’s age.
« Looking ahead to next year, we need to bring in promising young players and get rid of big names so that they can finish their contract or change their situation via a loan, » Gaspart insisted.
« This has to be done but it is something normal, the only abnormal thing we are going through is not called football or Barcelona, it is called coronavirus.
« This has brought a lot of abnormal situations to the world and to companies, and football is also a company, so the transfer movements are not going to be like other years and this has to be taken into account so as not to rush in and make even bigger mistakes. »
Juan Carlos played for Barcelona between 1991 and 1994 and he is convinced that Koeman’s arrival may end up being decisive.
« As a player he already had a lot of character, it was clear that sooner or later he was going to end up on Barcelona’s bench, as is the case with Xavi [Hernandez], » Juan Carlos stated to MARCA.
« If he accepts this role, it is because he sees himself as capable of doing what he believes in.
« He will do well and his relationship with Messi will be good, but I still think he needs a No.9.
« I’ve been thinking about it for a long time: whether Suarez is here or not, we need another pure striker. »
Ramon Caldere, who came through La Masia and played in Barcelona’s first team between 1984 and 1988, believes that an overhaul is necessary, but possible improvements could be made without sweeping changes, as shown with Real Madrid this season.
« Last summer there was talk of 10 key players leaving [at Real Madrid], » Caldere explained to MARCA.
« In the end they could not change much and this year they have won two trophies.
« Maybe something similar can happen in this Barcelona [squad] with an abrupt change of the coach, because I really see that it’s impossible to change a lot of players. »
With Barcelona unable to flex their muscles in the transfer window, looking at the academy will be key.
« There are great footballers at the club who can make the leap, but I must admit that I do not think we will see, at least in my case, another player like him from La Masia again, » Sergi Barjuan said to MARCA.
« I hope I’m wrong, but I think that’s how it will be.
« The first thing that it is necessary to value is this, because it is going to cost Barcelona a lot to get a player like him.
« Now they will move in the market and we will see what can be done, but the important thing is that a player like Messi is well wrapped up.
« As an academy graduate, I know that the first dream is to make your debut with the first team and the second one is to have a career as long as possible.
« It’s important to have the youth team because there are players who can complement each other well with Leo. »
Caldere went on to explain the importance of La Masia.
« It should always be important, but now more than ever [because] it will not be possible to sign, » Caldere noted.
« It is regrettable what they have done with the academy.
« [Ramon] Planes, [Eric] Abidal… they’ve all been blown it.
« When we lose three games, the coaches get kicked out, but the directors don’t.
« They haven’t known how to manage it; they’ve done it very badly.
« They don’t leave because they want to gain time and raise the issue of finances and guarantees.
« Messi is up to his neck with everything, he is fed up.
« He needed a forward or a winger when Neymar left and they signed Griezmann, who is a great player but not Barcelona’s profile.
« He is fed up and all this has to change, he is not going to leave.
« We really know who has to leave. »
Minguella thinks that Messi will see how the first half of the 2020/21 season goes before making a decision on his future.
« In January he will decide according to what he has seen in the first part of the campaign, » Minguella said.
« There is a risk that Messi will leave, » Victor Font stated whilst on El Partidazo de COPE.
Gaspart, for his part, believes it is impossible for him to leave now.
« He would never leave with this bad taste in his mouth, » Gaspart affirmed.
« He will want to get the thorn out of this situation and will surely return the team to the top, because this club has never known how to be second.
« Messi is honest, a good person.
« I signed him when he was 15, although I never thought he would become what he is now.
« As long as he feels strong and well supported, he will continue at Barcelona, but that doesn’t mean that tomorrow he will want to have a sporting adventure in another country where football is not so aggressive. »
Nevertheless, Gaspart thinks it’s possible that he leaves.
« Cristiano [Ronaldo] also left [Real] Madrid and nothing happened, the [Estadio Santiago] Bernabeu didn’t burn down, » he recalled.
« The Barcelona of Ronaldinho, Deco, [Samuel] Eto’o also went away… and they continued winning. »
Rivaldo, a great player at Barcelona in the last 1990s, early 2000s cannot see Messi away from the Camp Nou.
« »I don’t think Messi is going to leave Barcelona now, » the Brazilian explained to MARCA through Betfair.
« Before doing so, he would talk to the management.
« They have a relationship of many years at the club; he has given them much and also Barcelona to him.
« He will not leave the team without the club receiving something for him, at least I believe that that is my opinion due to his personality and everything that he has shown over these years.
« He was sad and hurt by this result and this whole 2019/20 campaign, but he is very grateful to Barcelona, he has his life set in the city and the day he finishes playing football he will live in Barcelona.
« There are going to be a lot of changes this summer with a lot of players coming and going, so I hope he can make the right decisions to make Barcelona strong again, as they were in other years. »