clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Is Lionel Messi leaving FC Barcelona for real, or is it a bluff?

There is something odd about Barcelona’s announcement...

SPAIN-BARCELONA-FOOTBALL-SPANISH LEAGUE-FC BARCELONA VS CELTA VIGO Xinhua/Joan Gosa via Getty Images

FC Barcelona shocked the sports world by officially announcing that Lionel Messi would leave the club that’s been his home during his entire career.

But is there more that meets the eye? Could this really be some sort of power play or bluff? Or are people just in denial?

I’m going to make an argument here. The argument is that there is something up. What that is, is harder to say.

Let’s go over that announcement.

It reads:

Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish Liga regulations).

As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.

FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life.

The announcement stresses in an official capacity that both the club and the player want to maintain their relationship. This is basically unheard of in any announcement like this. It’s also remarkably short. No big tribute for the player. No count up of stats. Just a token bit of gratitude. If you didn’t know this was Messi, you’d think they were speaking of a squad player. Very strange.

What else is strange? No teammate or club legend or anyone has made any statement. The player is silent, too, as is the club president, Joan Laporta.

And here’s the strangest bit: the player registration deadline is not today. It’s not tomorrow, either. From what we’ve been told, Barcelona has until the end of the month to sort things out. There is no need to make an announcement.

If you were in charge of Barcelona, you’d try to renew Messi’s contract until the very last, even if you were 99% sure you would fail. So you’d keep going until either the deadline came or he told you he had found a new team. All the reports say that he has not found a new team, and again, the statement says that he wants to continue at the Camp Nou.

Taken at face value, the announcement is essentially saying that Laporta is giving up even with time left. Why would Barcelona do this?

Could it be a power play? Imagine La Liga offices right now. The phones must be ringing like crazy. Big money interests asking why, despite both the player and the club wanting him to stay, is the biggest star in world football leaving the league?

Barcelona could be in desperation mode, and trying to play one last trick with this. There is a lot of stake, and a lot of powerful interests. There is the topic of the Super League, there is the investment in La Liga from CVC.

Even if Laporta is attempting a mind game of sorts here, it doesn’t mean it’ll work. There could be something we don’t know about yet at work here, too.

Again, something is up. Perhaps it’s not a mindgame. Perhaps we’re in denial. But perhaps there is something more than meets the eye.