Lionel Messi publicly expressed his frustration with FC Barcelona this past summer as he requested to leave the club. However, contract disputes between the two parties left the Argentine with no choice but to stay.
In recent years, financial instability and inconsistent on-pitch performances have left FC Barcelona looking far from their former selves. It is seemingly more likely that the 33-year-old will leave his childhood club after his contract expires this summer.
Underperforming in the Champions League
Barcelona has failed to produce in the UEFA Champions League since Neymar Jr’s departure. In their 2018 UCL run, the Spanish giants were knocked out by Roma in the Quarter-Finals after they led 4-1 in the first leg. In 2019, Barcelona choked yet another second leg in the semi-finals as they lost to Liverpool 4-3 on aggregate. However, in 2020, Barça suffered their most embarrassing loss against Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.
In recent years, FC Barcelona’s domination in La Liga has not transferred over to the Champions League as the team fails to compete alongside big-name clubs. The absence of players like Iniesta and Xavi has left the club struggling to adapt as they lack creativity in the midfield. Furthermore, the young and inexperienced core has not been able to produce in top-flight football. As Messi nears the end of his prime, it is in his best interest to win trophies right now to further cement his legacy as one of the greats. Barça’s form in the UCL suggests that the club has a long way to go before they can win.
Barcelona has lost a lot of talent in recent years, which has left the club in a difficult position. The club has signed players to fill gaps within their squad, yet these players have not met expectations. Dembélé has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, whereas Griezmann and Coutinho have not adjusted to their roles alongside Messi. Furthermore, the transfer swap for Miralem Pjanić has left the club with an aging and uninterested midfielder.
Nonetheless, Barcelona has a youthful group of players ready to guide this team in the future. The likes of Fati, Pedri, and Puig have already shown glimpses of their potential. Yet, they lack the experience and leadership skills required to help the club win trophies right now.
At the moment, Messi does not fit into the future of this transforming Barcelona team. The club has the talent to compete in Europe’s top leagues yet fails to perform in critical situations. Oftentimes, the club relies heavily on Messi to shoulder their offensive load. The Argentine cannot afford to waste the last years of his prime on a team unable to contend for trophies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the finances of all European clubs. Barcelona has not been an exception. In fact, Spanish newspapers have reported that FC Barcelona may be on the verge of bankruptcy. The club indicated that “it made a loss of around $117 million” in 2020 due to the pandemic. In total, Barcelona’s debt has accumulated to $1.4 billion. Of this amount, “$322 million must be paid to banks by the end of June.”
As of right now, 74% of Barça’s annual revenue is spent on player wages. By resigning Messi, Barcelona would need to sustain these figures for at least 2-3 more years. During this time, the club would also be unable to improve its current squad due to a lack of financial flexibility. Thus, it makes sense for FC Barcelona to remove Messi’s salary from their books.
Throughout the last 17 years, Messi has given his all to FC Barcelona. He has helped the club win four UCL trophies and ten La Liga titles. However, recently, Barça has been unable to live up to those same standards. Clubs around the world are waiting to see if Messi will leave FC Barcelona this summer. The likes of Manchester City and PSG have expressed their interest in signing the 33-year-old. Yet, it is still unknown if Messi has spoken to the clubs at the moment.