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What does Lionel Messi staying mean for Barcelona?

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Leo Messi no va a ninguna parte!

The entire Lionel Messi spectacle has finally taken a halt. Temporarily, maybe! But the Barcelona captain is set to continue his journey with the Blaugranas, putting an end to the days of drama that took the footballing world by storm.

Messi's contractual story

It was soon after Barca’s humiliating 8-2 defeat at hands of eventual Champions League winner Bayern Munich that the 33-year-old delivered a bolt from the blue, insisting that he wishes to end his expedition with the club for which he signed his first contract on a piece of napkin. And there have been legal troubles since.

The Argentine believed he could leave for free due to a special clause inserted in his contract, which runs until 2021. But that particular provision expired in June. Messi and his representatives were of the belief that the club, sportingly, would consider extending the stipulation because the 2019/20 season stretched until August, a request that the club discarded outright. The Spanish La Liga jumped in and ruled in Barcelona’s favour, saying that any club that wishes to acquire Messi needs to meet his release clause of €700m.

The story since has been quite toxic at times, and the saga forced Messi’s father and agent Jorge to touch down in Cataluyna and have a face-off with the club’s official. In response to La Liga’s decision, Jorge Messi claimed that LaLiga had "clearly made a mistake" and cites clause 8.2.3.6 of the contract between Messi and Barcelona, which says that the clause will not apply if the player (Messi) decides to terminate the contract before the end of the 2019-20 season.

But things have panned out well since. The parties involved reached a middle-ground, and the Argentine is set to see off his contract.

“I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not,” Messi told Goal.

“Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for La Liga in the middle of this awful virus and this disease altered all the season.”

What does Messi staying mean?

Lionel Messi is arguably the most influential figure at Barcelona. The prospect of playing alongside the Argentine magician has played a big role in several players choosing to join the Blaugranas rather than moving elsewhere. And thus, losing him would hit the club in several ways, which includes a drastic fall in fan following.

Barcelona, under the presidentship of Josep Maria Bartomeu, have been a damp squib, to say the least. Just about nothing seems to be in place. 

The club, in fact, has adopted a different approach altogether. Once known for having one of the best setups for young talents, the board has looked keen on acquiring big names instead. A total of £277.5m was spent on Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele alone, both of whom have failed to jot down a place in the starting XI. While the Frenchman has struggled with injuries, the Brazilian has never really managed to feel at home. Not to forget the £120m arrival of Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

“I believed that the club needed more young players, new players and I thought my time in Barcelona was over. I felt very sorry because I always said that I wanted to finish my career here,” said Messi in an interview with Goal.

For Messi, clashes with the board became public soon after the former director of football, Eric Abidal, accused players for the sacking of Ernesto Valverde. It is evident that the Argentine understands that those sitting in the higher ranks have no aim whatsoever.

As things stand for the club, a revamp is evident. Messi staying put simply means Barca have a blueprint going ahead. A plan that guarantees success. A plan that sees the deadwood being removed and fresh faces glorifying the grass of Camp Nou once again.

Midfielder Ivan Rakitic has already moved back to Sevilla, while Inter are reportedly closing in on Arturo Vidal. And then, there are rumours of Luis Suarez switching alliance to join forces with Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus. But with Messi staying, this transfer might take a pause as the duo share a great relationship both on and off the field.

While the transfers remain one facet of the debacle, Barcelona have churned a lot through the brand image of Lionel Messi, and a lot would have been lost if the Argentine had left. It will certainly be interesting to see how the players will react once he joins them in training, and even when he takes the field when La Liga resumes.

It’s just a settlement, to say the least. The relationship between Messi and the board will never be sweet again. The verdict on staying put has only been taken because the club refused to acknowledge the break in his contract, and he doesn’t want to drag the matter in court.

"Now I am going to continue in the club because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700m clause and that this is impossible," he added.

“There was another way and it was to go to trial. I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, which gave me everything since I arrived, it is the club of my life, I have made my life here.”

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Lluis Gene

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