Lionel Messi has left Barcelona. That’s a sentence not many thought would be written this summer, not with the murmurings coming out of Camp Nou for so long. But it’s the reality, and the Argentine will now have to find a new club to ply his trade.
Messi joined Barcelona as a pimply-faced teenager, and has spent his entire senior club career in Catalonia. Widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers to have ever graced the sport, he lifted four Champions League titles at Barcelona.
The news is a shock because of how content Messi seemed. That chip on his shoulder ever since he broke through, his inability to deliver success for his beloved Argentina, was a dragon he slayed just this summer by winning the Copa America, a title not even Diego Maradona achieved. What’s more, he did it against favourites Brazil in the final, and in Rio de Janeiro.
Messi’s departure is a real loss for La Liga, with thoughts now beginning to turn to where he could head next. Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were the two clubs most heavily linked last summer, although the former just announced the signing of Jack Grealish and are in the midst of trying to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham Hotspur. PSG are the obvious candidate.
Messi has old friends there, and foes. Neymar, who he spent time on holiday in Ibiza with, is the shining star of the project in the French capital, alongside the similarly galactic Kylian Mbappe. Just this summer, Sergio Ramos joined PSG on a free transfer from Real Madrid. Ramos and Messi have had their fair share of tangles over the years, but together are two of the most charismatic and famous characters to have graced La Liga. The idea of them working together to end PSG’s drought in the Champions League – they share eight between them – is something to behold.
Should Messi join PSG, it would seem inevitable that Mbappe would need to be moved on. His contract at the Parc des Princes expires next summer, and he’s intent on securing a move to Madrid and fulfilling a childhood dream. Messi’s arrival could expedite that, leaving Barcelona in a position where they inadvertently strengthened both PSG and their greatest rivals, Madrid. It’s a complex chain of events that would probably have had you committed if you’d tried to predict it just one year ago.