Against the backdrop of their current woes – and you can choose whether the accusations of wanting to influence refereeing decisions, being in a precarious financial position or having to leave the Camp Nou for a few seasons for renovations is the more damaging one here – – it would be easy to dismiss rumors that Barcelona are trying to bring Lionel Messi back as little more than useful diversionary tactics to divert attention from their increasingly dire situation. Smoke and Mirrors and Messi if you will.
So it’s an interesting twist in the story that – I’m very confident – that the whole idea of him moving back to Barca is being pushed by Messi himself.
As almost always, the Argentine world champion captain has the world at his feet. Paris Saint-Germain want him to extend his contract, which expires this summer, over fears of being denuded by his departure. Money is not an issue in their overtures.
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MLS side Inter Miami know Messi has long been working on a package deal to buy significant stakes in the club and play there when the time comes. Yet Messi also knows there is now a sizeable sum on offer (reportedly over $300m) if he decides to play in Saudi Arabia and have another series of clashes with Al Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo and ‘Who’s Better ?” Slumber parties as the Saudis battle to host the 2030 World Cup.
But it was the 35-year-old genius, who left Camp Nou in tears almost two seasons ago after a spate of trophies, goals and general brilliance, who decided his first option was to go ‘home’.
When current Barcelona vice-president Rafa Yuste confirmed ‘contact with Messi’s people’ two weeks ago, he phrased his response as if he personally had a thorn in his side about how things had ended. In a way, it sounded like Yuste trying to persuade Messi to do a Michael Jordan Last Dance experience because “beautiful stories should end well.” It sounded like Barca, despite finding themselves in the midst of almost all-consuming institutional chaos, were the ones with the vision, humility and courage to try to mend the horrific, cold-hearted breach they themselves caused to the relationship between them had the Camp Nou club and his prodigal son.
(Just in case you’ve forgotten what happened: in 2021, Messi agreed to cut his salary by 50% to help Barcelona extend his expiring contract and flew to Spain from his holiday in Ibiza Camp Nou because he thought a deal was in place (Except that he soon found out that club president Joan Laporta had completely changed his position, that there was no new contract and that Barca had summarily sacked their greatest footballer of all time.)
A few months after his desperate “Goodbye“No one has ever asked me to play for free,” Messi told Diario Sport. “They asked me to cut my salary by 50% and I agreed because I wanted to help the club – and my whole family wanted to stay in Barcelona. I was willing to do anything to make that happen, that’s why. ” What the President said was so hurtful.
“It wasn’t necessary at all. [Laporta] threw me to the wolves without taking responsibility for his actions or considering the consequences. It put all kinds of doubts in people’s minds and I really think I deserve better.”
Yuste’s words so soon after Messi had led Argentina to the holy grail of the world title made it seem like Barcelona saw the mistake in their path and at least tried to make things right. But not like this; Instead it turns out that Messi decided to message Xavi.
Messi reportedly told his former teammate and treble winners from 2009 and 2015 that his first option – if it could be approved by Xavi, the manager, and if the club could find a financial mechanism to make it work – is one Wechsel would be back at his Mediterranean villa, where he would test his ability to stay in shape so he could take part in the 2026 World Cup and remove the metaphorical thorn from his side.
I’m not directly quoting from Xavi’s response to Messi, but I can 100% assure you that the current Barcelona manager has extremely firm and clear views on the training regime he inherited a few days after Messi’s interview with Diario Sport in November 2021.
To put it mildly, Xavi was deeply shocked. His interpretation was that everything was lame, that a ‘star players call the shots’ vibe had taken hold and that he needed to make fundamental reforms in the club’s day-to-day culture. So when Messi raised the possibility of a return, I can guarantee that Xavi’s first criterion would have been ‘my team, my training ground…my rules: whoever you are’ without hesitation. I’m sure Messi expected it and accepted the ‘new era’ rules without hesitation.
Now put yourself in Xavi’s shoes. There is a temptation to tell the club that they would like to coach a young, obedient, cohesive squad and put the money elsewhere. But the Barcelona manager is a proud football addict. He will have watched most of Messi’s 69 PSG games and known off the top of his head that the man, now craving a return, has scored or assisted 64 times in those games. Did you know that?
Did you know that Messi was responsible for a goal contribution every 93 minutes for PSG – 31 scored, 33 assists? During that time, of course, he not only captained Argentina to the World Cup, but also scored seven goals and provided three assists, contributing one goal every 69 minutes in Qatar.
Just stop and think. If you tried to sign a 25-year-old with these stats, how much would you spend? Would it break the world record €222m paid by PSG to acquire Neymar? I think we all know it would be.
Halfway through his time in the French capital, Messi admitted: “I don’t know what I’m going to do when my contract here expires. My wife and I definitely want to come back to move to Barcelona, but apart from that I don’t have any clear plans. I’ve always said I’d love to come back to Barca and do everything I can to help the club I love continue to grow. I think a role like technical secretary would suit me well. I can’t promise it will happen but I would love to come back to Barca and work to keep them one of the greatest clubs in the world.”
But let’s face the bare facts here. LaLiga reckons Barcelona are €150m off where they need to be to meet their financial fair play salary cap regulations. This explains why the verbally agreed contract extensions for players like Gavi, Marcos Alonso and Ronald Araujo could not be formalized and registered with LaLiga. It’s a bit oversimplified, but Barcelona need to effectively generate €150m, cut €150m or do a bit of both before they can register those new deals – not to mention bringing Messi back or actually signing someone else (although they already have have agreed). a free transfer deal for Athletic Club defender Inigo Martinez).
Considering that the club’s temporary move to the Montjuïc hill at the Olympic Stadium will result in a significant loss of income, this seems an almost impossible task. It’s no wonder that the city of Barcelona is inundated with rumors that the LaLiga club are asking for “flexibility” in the particular case that Messi’s return to Spanish football, not just Barcelona, would be to everyone’s advantage.
Before even considering whether Messi has it mentally or physically to continue contributing at such a high level – he turns 36 in June – and before considering whether his inspiration to stay competitive until the 2030 World Cup is sufficient motivation For keep playing, the hard truth that comebacks aren’t usually a great idea has to be confronted.
Would you sign him under these conditions? Can Barcelona somehow create the right conditions for Messi’s latest dream to come true? Can it work if they do? Are we destined to walk this tortuous path only to see Messi tearfully and distraught left at the altar again by Barca?
The odds are against that whole idea, but Messi did lead Argentina to the World Cup – indeed, it did for much of his amazing career. However, the fact that this is being driven by Messi offers at least a glimmer of a possibility that the music is still playing and one last dance is in the offing.
Boogie down Leo.