Lionel Messi was stripped of his Olympus on August 5, 2021 and forced to build a different, less brilliant, though certainly more miraculous one with Argentina in Qatar. That day, his father and agent Jorge informed him that Barcelona would not sign the contract they had signed. And a guy used to collapsing in public only from rage and helplessness broke down in tears two days later at the 1899 Camp Nou auditorium. Several of those designated as…
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Lionel Messi was stripped of his Olympus on August 5, 2021 and forced to build a different, less brilliant, though certainly more miraculous one with Argentina in Qatar. That day, his father and agent Jorge informed him that Barcelona would not sign the contract they had signed. And a guy used to collapsing in public only from rage and helplessness broke down in tears two days later at the 1899 Camp Nou auditorium. Several of those blamed for his departure testified from the front row as the Argentine emphasized: “I did my best to stay, I don’t know about the club”. Cold greetings to some, scorn to others, and the Flea headed for Paris. From that moment on, Messi ignored any kind of flirtation with Barcelona, of course also with Joan Laporta. Until last Wednesday, February 15th. So, after the meeting between Jorge Messi and the PSG board, Barça reappeared on the scene. And Jorge didn’t close the door. “We are serious about Leo,” they say in the leadership of Laporta. Xavi Hernández, of course, celebrates.
After losing in the Champions League and the Europa League and, above all, after the defeat suffered at Camp Nou against Real Madrid in the Cup (0-4), both Xavi’s technical team and the sports management understand that the azulgrana squad has half built state. “Another revolution is missing”, emphasize sources of the technical secretary. In the coaching staff they add: “We have already seen in the derby, when Pedri, Frenkie and Ousmane are not there, we lack talent from three-quarters of the field and up and Leo in that area continues to be number 1”. Xavi was still training in Qatar when Messi left Barcelona. He was present, however, on the day Messi said goodbye to the Camp Nou. “We are close friends,” both parties agree; “We never lost touch.”
Sometimes in person, sometimes over the phone, usually through messages and audios, Xavi and Messi are used to talking. The Barça team understands the possible return of Rosario as the lever for next summer, a political and sporting balm in a club cornered by the courts and without economic margin, in search of its lost sporting place. “Messi’s return would help us a lot, not only at an institutional level, but also at a football level”, they analyze in the coaching staff. Waiting for Laporta to have a private and public gesture with Messi, the Barça coach is the best bridge between Paris and Barcelona for the Argentine.
Messi, however, remains in contact with Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. By the way, on their last visit to Barcelona, the three (along with their companions) had dinner at Born. That night, the Argentine told his teammates that he had not yet decided on his future. “Can you come back here?” they asked. Messi smiled. He didn’t say anything else. In his time at Camp Nou, the 10th did not even comment on a visit to the dentist in the dressing room. “The next day he appears on Sport and Mundo Deportivo saying he has a toothache,” they joked in Messi’s office on Avenida Diagonal in Barcelona. Thus, the happy silence of the rosary at dinner with Alba and Busquets was interpreted as a good sign in Barcelona: La Pulga lowered the tension.
A few days later, still in February, Jorge Messi met with Laporta two years after the tough conversation they had in August 2021, when the president told him that “there was nothing to be done and that Leo could not be renewed”. This time, the conversation, in a Barcelona hotel, was cordial. It only lasted half an hour and there was only talk of a possible tribute to Messi before he left Europe. They agreed to talk again.
It so happened that vice-president of sports Rafa Yuste emerged: “We are in contact with Messi”. Yuste’s response surprised both the Argentine’s entourage and Barça’s sporting direction. “We have a very excited vice president. We would also like to have lunch with Scarlett Johansson, but we have to be prudent”, it was heard at the Camp Nou. Xavi left at the crossroads. The Coach.
So far, between Messi and Barcelona, there has been a meeting between Laporta and Jorge, to which is added a historic emissary of the president who, since La Pulga left Camp Nou, has acted as an intermediary between the Rosario family and the main executive of the Barca. Besides, of course, the many messages between Leo and Xavi. There is, however, no formal proposal.
The key to Messi’s return lies in the hands of La Liga president Javier Tebas. “We depend on fair play”, says an employee of the technical secretariat. At Barça they trust that, after the Superliga project cools down, the relationship with Tebas can be redirected. For this, they are already working. The Catalan entity calculates that the wage bill will be estimated at around 500 million, 150 less than this season, but still without reaching the 450 they want from the economic area. “Before talking about Leo, first we have to register Gavi, Araujo and Balde. And then we will see if the League accepts the viability plan that we will present shortly for Messi’s application. We have to see how Tebas reacts ”, explain Barça’s sporting direction. “We would very much like Messi to return as long as Barça comply with the regulations”, he emphasized in LaLiga. If the president of the employers’ association gives the green light, Barça will contact Jorge Messi again.
It would not be the first time Barcelona have traveled to Paris in vain. He tried with Verratti in 2017, never more publicly exposed than when Josep Maria Bartomeu and company became passionate about bringing Neymar back in 2019. Nobody leaves France if they don’t want to in Qatar.
This time it’s different. Messi is not stuck in Paris. When Messi signed for PSG, he agreed to a two-year contract plus one. The option is only activated if both parties agree. And everything seemed to indicate that Messi would extend his stay in Paris. Rosario had started working at home and, most importantly, with sports director Luis Campos they had talked about completing the third year of their relationship. However, Jorge Messi was surprised to arrive in Paris to talk about PSG’s new project. Few reinforcements. And many doubts. Unknowns hang over the bench and the French club’s ability to balance financial fair play. Money to sign, certainly not lacking.
The last dance of the 10
Of course, there was a clear message for Messi: no one, neither in Paris nor in Qatar, wanted the Flea to pack his bags. The issue, no less, is that while the Argentinean postpones his decision, the media linked to the Parisian entity questions Rosario at the same time that part of the Parisian crowd whistles him. His 19 goals and 18 assists in 34 games don’t look like enough for them. Mbappé, for example, has 31 goals and eight assists in 35 duels, compared to Neymar’s 18 and 17 in 29. In Paris they want Orejona and PSG to jump from fiasco to fiasco in the Champions League, the last one against Bayern in the round of 16.
PSG plays its cards, Messi his. To the succulent offer of Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia of 400 million per season, is added the option of going to Inter Miami. And along the way, Barça. “One last dance, like Michael Jordan,” says Xavi. The Barça fans were already emotional: “Messi, Messi, Messi”, sang the Camp Nou in the derby. There are memories that don’t lie, others that are simply forgotten. And as Barcelona fans remember Leo, it’s now Leo who must put a stop to Laporta’s disappointment.
But when history was deemed already written, something is changing in Barcelona. Conquered (finally) Argentina, now it seems that Messi, aged 35, has the opportunity to rewrite the last pages of his life at Barça. Nothing less than returning to your Olympus.
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