Barcelona Might Be Better Off In Long Term Without Lionel Messi

FC Barcelona announced yesterday that they could no longer afford to keep global superstar Lionel Messi (The Guardian).

To be honest, I won’t truly believe Messi has departed the Camp Nou until he’s being paraded in another club’s jersey. I think this is a move on Barca’s part to make a play against La Liga financial fair play rules and a way to reinsert their dominance (along with Real Madrid) in the Spanish top flight after the European Super League debacle.

But let’s say this is truly the end of Leo in Catalunya, could it actually be a good thing for Barca?

Now when you look at the stats, you’d be crazy to see a positive in the Argentine’s departure. In the league alone last year the attacker grabbed thirty goals and created nine assists. The last time Messi didn’t score twenty or more league strikes was way back in the 2007-08 season!

Yet he’s now thirty-four years of age and everything both on and off the park still seemed to go through the player. As a team, Barcelona have stopped evolving. They continually look to Lionel and ask him to conjure up something magic. Opposition teams know the playbook and whilst Messi can still beat certain sides on his own, it’s not happening with the same consistency that it has before.

The side no longer have the likes of Neymar, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez there to shoulder some of that responsibility. The club’s hierarchy balls up the rebuild job. They got £200m for Neymar and they squandered that cash and then went on to squander even more.

New signings like Antoine Griezmann, Miralem Pjanic, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho haven’t been good enough to get Barcelona back to their peak years. The Catalan giants haven’t won a La Liga title in the past two seasons and their last Champions League triumph came in 2015!

The club are now in a serious financial mess. They’re in the market for free transfers this summer (struggling to even get those moves done) and are heavily in the red.

In a statement released today, Barca President Joan Laporta stated:

“I can’t make a decision that will affect the club for 50 years,”

Via BBC Sport

I believe that’s the stark reality of the situation, even though I still think the club’s head honchos will still look at ways to do a deal like persuading La Liga to change certain rules to keep one of the world’s greatest ever players in the league.

But Barca will have to have made this decision at some point in the future. Messi wasn’t going to last forever. Many people will say that a player can’t be bigger than a football club but in this case Messi was getting to that stage.

Now Barca can instigate a proper rebuild and plan for a future without their famous number ten.

It should still involve getting rid of the deadwood that they’re trying to sell this summer.

It should also include the likes of Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig and Pedri. Those are very gifted players that have come up through the club’s academy.

I don’t think the longterm future will see Ronald Koeman in the hot-seat. He’s almost been given his dream job on the basis of seeing off the old guard and getting things ready for an Xavi return within the next 12 to 24 months.

They need to balance the books and once they do that, they’ll need to look at bringing in the best young prospects that world football has to offer. There should be more Frankie De Jongs and Sergino Dests coming through the door and less Braithwaites and Depays.

I also believe the likes of Ansu Fati could flourish without Messi’s visible shadow looming over him. A player as great as Leo Messi can sometimes stifle talent just with their presence. Fati should look at this as his moment to really come to the fore and make himself the next world class talent to come out of La Masia.

FC Barcelona are at a crossroads.

They can keep Messi if the cards fall their way in this possible power move but in the end they still need to plan for his eventual departure.

They can slowly but surely fade as a power like Arsenal and AC Milan have done in the past.

Or they can actually embrace this enforced moment of change and start to get back to the basics of what made them great in the first place and that’s a well drilled, young, exciting football team that can pass teams off the park.

Which route will they take? Well only in time will we find out!

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