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So... what if Lionel Messi leaves Barcelona?

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Can the unthinkable happen?

Barcelona v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Photo by Rafael Marchante/Pool via Getty Images

The unthinkable seems closer than ever before to happening. Lionel Messi is reportedly fed up with Barcelona’s board and is considering changing clubs. It’s hard to know who could afford him in the current economic conditions, but it would also be difficult to keep the captain and icon of the club against his will.

If Messi were to leave, Barcelona would really be in trouble. Over the past few seasons, they’ve depended on him more than ever. Particularly, in the last season, Messi had a hand in every goal, almost. Their UEFA Champions League win over Napoli, with Messi scoring a solo goal and winning a penalty out of nothing, and winning 3-1, was yet another example.

Without a doubt, Barcelona would become much weaker, and we would find it hard to believe they could bounce back and win the league, let alone the UEFA Champions League, within the next season or even in the next few ones.

Real Madrid sold Cristiano Ronaldo, and despite missing out last year, won La Liga relatively soon after. It’s hard to think Barcelona could absorb the loss as quickly. This Barcelona is more reliant on Messi than Madrid was on Ronaldo, not to mention, this Barcelona has less quality overall than that Madrid.

Barcelona does have a few pieces to build a team around. It wouldn’t be unthinkable to keep Antoine Griezmann and give him a more central role, if Messi were to leave. They could look to a few young midfielders like Frenkie de Jong and Riqui Puig to develop into the next generation of Barcelona legends. And there’s always Ansu Fati.

Still, his loss would be massive. The level of the team would fall drastically. And in terms of PR, it would also be terrible. This team relies on Messi to market the team, and to increase the club’s value.

From Messi’s point of view, however, it might make a lot of sense. The player has a limited amount of years left at the top level. He may not want to wait years to see if the board can give him a supporting cast worthy of a Champions League finalist.

If that’s the case, a lot of Barcelona fans may be OK with Messi leaving. Or they may even want it. Just to see their idol achieve better things. And then the team could look for silver linings. The pressure to rebuild quickly would be off. True, the team would be worse off but at least they could shed some big paying contracts and take on a slow, methodical rebuilding process. It would coincide with new elections.

It’s a strange topic to think about these days.