Messi chooses to stay at home with Barcelona



Barcelona forward Lionel Messi greets the fans after he left the game during the second half against Real Madrid in an International Champions Cup match on Saturday, July 29, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Barcelona won, 3-2. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

Charles Horn

Just days after shocking the world with his public declaration announcing his intention to depart from Barcelona after 20-years, Lionel Messi has reported that he will be staying with the only club he’s ever known. According to Messi, the decision is in large part due to the clubs failure in granting him his much-desired free transfer. The usually quiet in public, loud on the pitch player uncharacteristically lashed out at the club, criticizing multiple levels of the organization and calling for broad changes 

In an explosive interview with Goal, Messi revealed both his motivations for remaining in the Catalan capital and also the deep fractures between the club and its adopted son. Contrary to speculation that the disastrous 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich had influenced his decision, Messi instead described a decision he had dwelled on for some time, and had then informed the club of, repeatedly, over the course of a year.

Messi singled out the President of Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu, for supposedly reneging on his promise to grant Messi his wish to leave. The statement added further fuel to the fire of the vote of no confidence campaign supported by a significant number of Barcelona’s 154,000 members, commonly referred to as socios. These socios make up the entirety of Barcelona’s ownership, and have recently grown disillusioned with Bartomeu and his vision for the club. 

Bartomeu insisted that the €700 million release clause be paid, which would effectively ensure that Messi would be unable to leave Barca, despite his supposed earlier promises that he would allow Messi to depart, for no fee, as a free agent. A club entirely owned by its fans, Barcelona remains at the mercy of their wishes. If the choice is between Bartomeu or Messi, the socios have made their choice clear. 

Since Neymar departed for a world record fee to Paris Saint Germain in 2017, Barcelona have increasingly relied on heroic performances by Messi as Luis Suarez deteriorated with age. While Barcelona have remained competitive in La Liga, they have suffered humiliating exits during their past three Champions League seasons. These failures have left Messi feeling disillusioned. “You can win or lose in it, because it is very difficult, but you have to compete. At least compete in it and let us not fall apart in Rome, Liverpool, Lisbon.” he said. 

Ultimately, Messi chose not to go to legal war, “it never crossed my mind to take Barca to court.” Partly due to his love for the club, which Messi has stated maintains, but also out of love for his family: Messi cites his son Mateo as a key factor towards remaining in Barcelona. Reflecting on his own hardships when he moved from Argentina to Barcelona at just 13, Messi said, “I didn’t want him to know anything about being forced to leave, to have to live in a new school, or make new friends. He cried to me and said, ‘let’s not go.’” 

New manager Ronald Koeman, whose arrival follows the sacking of Quique Setién after the Bayern defeat, is the third Barca manager to be hired in the past nine-months. Messi hopes Koerman’s new ideas and systems will reinvigorate a Barca team yearning for direction. Things better change quickly. With his contract expiring in 2021, this season will likely be the last dance for Barca’s most famous dancer.