Lionel Messi will stay at Barcelona for at least one more year, the player has announced. He wanted to go, but ultimately, was not allowed to. Barcelona stood firm and said any team that wanted him had to pay a 700 million release clause, that, particularly after the economic devastation caused by the pandemic, no one can pay.
The Catalans are surely hoping Messi will, for once, follow Neymar. Usually, we say the reverse: we hope that Neymar follows Messi. But in this case, Barcelona are hoping Messi does what Neymar did at Paris Saint-Germain: stay one more year, continue to perform, and in the end change his mind about leaving.
Neymar almost returned to Barcelona last season, when he made it clear that he was intent on leaving Paris. However, PSG turned down Barcelona’s offers and the Brazilian reluctantly stayed on for one more year.
Ney performed at a very high level as PSG reached the UEFA Champions League Final. Today, you no longer hear about him leaving PSG, at least for one more season. The Parisian club has told the media they fully expect to have him and Kylian Mbappé once again for the next term.
So, Barcelona hope Messi will stay for one more year, play to his genius level, and decide he actually quite likes it here anyway. The worst case scenario is he’s not motivated, he plays at half his capacity, and leaves for free next summer anyway. The Catalans could have sold him today for a relatively huge sum for a 33 year old in the last year of his contract. But there is a precedent for this type of deal working out, which perhaps emboldened Barcelona to try to keep him at all costs.