Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes left in 2014. Xavi left in 2015. Dani Alves left in 2016. Andres Iniesta left in 2018. Sergio Busquets is on his way out, so too Gerard Pique. And now, Lionel Messi, the king of kings, the golden ace, seems to be leaving Barcelona as well.
This isn’t how Messi was supposed to leave. He always wanted to end his career at Barca, but he needed to be on a team that would be competitive. This team, under this regime, is going nowhere. It hurts because it could’ve and should’ve ended so much better.
If this is indeed the end, it couldn’t have ended any worse; after suffering the club’s worst defeat in history. Messi deserved an emotional farewell in his home, a stadium overflowing with fans chanting his name one last time and millions watching in tears all over the world. Instead it was a burofax.
He was supposed to say goodbye after delivering on his Champions League promise, not after the first trophyless season in years. Everything about this is just unfair, unfair to a player who has given everything he has to this club, unfair to the greatest player of all time.
This is not a send-off worthy of Leo Messi, but one that epitomizes the incompetence of the board and president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Bartomeu tried to make Messi a villain and a dictator in the public eye, but we know better, and it seems he does now, too.
By offering to resign for Messi to stay, Bartomeu has put the ball in Messi’s court and covered himself as usual. If Messi called for his resignation, then the president is a victim of his dictatorship, and if he leaves anyway, Bartomeu will be able to say he did everything he could.
The truth is that Leo is not a dictator, he is not power-hungry, and he is not a villain. He never wanted to be in charge of the decisions, all he wanted was for a competent board to make them. There is no doubt in my mind that if he had that, he’d be here until his legs gave up.
The Argentine was blamed for failure one too many times, and as much as it does hurt, no one can blame him for wanting to leave. He has stuck with Barca through the decline that has been coming ever since Bartomeu took over, but enough is enough.
His magic has never been seen before, and it will never be seen again. He deserves a chance to finish his career as a winner, not as a babysitter for a sinking ship in rebuild mode.
The possibility of finishing his career with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City as a Michael Jordan-like “Last Dance” is attractive to all fans, and I’m sure it’s attractive to him. If that is the path he chooses to take, I wish him nothing but the best, and it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Barcelona.
Don’t get me wrong, I hope with all my heart that he stays, but it is undeniable that he is getting older and his work-rate has slowed in recent years. He needs a team that will mould itself to make him shine brightest, something that Guardiola can and has already given him.
New manager Ronald Koeman doesn’t seem to want to give him that, as he begins a total rebuild that values the team over anything else. That is fair, but it underestimates Messi’s monumental impact on the team.
There have been ends of eras before at the club, and there have been massive players who left where we thought the damage would be irreparable. Johan Cruyff and Ronaldinho come to mind. However, each time Barca has bounced back, and we will bounce back again.
But this is a departure unlike any other, especially because there is no plan in place, one of Bartomeu’s countless faults. It seemed Neymar could be that guy, but he left and was never replaced, yet another of Bartomeu’s faults.
However, in a year there will be a new president, and the club can truly begin its new era. Messi was always going to leave eventually, and there are potential presidents out there who have clear ideas on how to replace him, even if our current one doesn’t.
The simple answer is La Masia, as well as other young players, and it will take time, but Barcelona will find success again. It’ll just have to be without Messi.
We will miss him unlike any other, and his departure will be felt unlike any other. I’ll say it again, the worst part of this is not that he’s leaving, it’s how he’s leaving, but this is the reality that has been created by Bartomeu, the worst president we have ever had.
The fact that he’ll go down as one of the club’s most successful presidents trophy-wise speaks volumes about Messi and what he’s been able to do with this team. But it’s time to move on.
For someone who grew up watching the magic of this golden generation, it seems hard to believe there will ever be a team like 2011. This era will never be forgotten, but it’s onto the next one now.
To Valdes, to Pique, to Busquets, to Puyol, to Xavi, to Iniesta, and especially to Messi: all we can say is thank you. Thank you for showing us why we call football “The Beautiful Game,” and thank you for giving every ounce of your heart and soul to Barca. Thank you for everything.
Now, as the curtain closes over the best period in our history, we must look to the past in order to build our future.