Opinion – Lionel Messi’s 21-year association with Barcelona is over and it is not La Liga’s fault.
There is absolutely no doubt that Messi’s departure is not only a crushing blow for Barcelona but the league itself.
Any league that has Messi – the best player to ever kick a ball – is much better off, but La Liga must be commended for standing by its decisions and passing up the opportunity of keeping the most profitable player in the game in its grasp.
From day one in this whole saga, league chief Javier Tebas was clear that he would not bend to allow Barcelona to register Messi.
Significantly over their salary cap, the Blaugrana were not allowed to register their superstar frontman, even with a new contract, but many hoped the league would be flexible, aware of the profit they would miss out on if they allowed Messi to leave.
Tebas was having none of it. He repeatedly told of how he ‘warned’ Barcelona of the issues their overspending would cause, and that he must hold the Catalan club to the consequences of their actions to protect the rest of the clubs in the league.
To his credit, even when his hands were thrust close to the fire, he did just that.
Barcelona fans may feel hard done by, that it’s unfair to be held accountable for the actions of former president Josep Maria Bartomeu. It is not.
The fact that Barcelona have a president and not an owner, does not mean they get a fresh start each time there is a new regime.
In the same way that clubs with owners are held accountable even when they have an owner that runs their club into the ground, Barca must be held accountable when a president does the same.
In fact, if anything, Barcelona fans are more fortunate than those clubs with owners in that sense, because they do, at least, get a say in who runs their club.
Now, this is in no way the fault of the fans. Cules could never have foreseen the disaster brewing when Bartomeu was voted into office. In fact, they should be applauded for forcing the 58-year-old out of the club when they did.
But that does not change the fact that the club must now face the consequences of the overspending that took place under the former president.
And let’s not forget, Barca were fortunate enough to win four La Liga titles in five of the full seasons Bartomeu was at the helm, as well as Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup and four Copas del Rey.
Barcelona have already gained unfair advantages as a result of their overspending, so flexibility on the part of La Liga should never have been an option.
Tebas ensured it was not, he refused to set the precedent of the bigger clubs being helped out because it ‘benefitted the league’, and in doing so, he has protected everyone else in La Liga, every other club that competes or will compete in the Spanish top flight.
Did he do it for that reason alone? Did we see a battle of egos between Tebas and current Barca president Joan Laporta amid the whole Super League saga? Perhaps.
But the La Liga chief did manage to strike a deal with CVC for €2.7billion in a bid to placate Barcelona and Real Madrid over their Super League efforts.
His explanation of the deal sounds too much like the reasons Florentino Perez gave for the Super League for it not to be an attempt to please those clubs and end the super League saga once and for all.
But despite the fact it would help Barca’s case in their bid to keep Messi, the deal was rejected by the Catalan club.
In reality, given the likelihood of it being approved by the majority, that deal will happen anyway.
But Barcelona’s rejection of the proposal tells us everything about the relationship they have with the league in which they play.
And there is no doubt this saga will continue to play out over the coming weeks, months and probably years.
But make no mistake, Barcelona not being able to sign Messi is a consequence of their own actions, and they were not just actions of a former president but of an institution.
Tebas is right to have enforced those consequences, and while La Liga will feel the pinch of losing a once-in-a-lifetime talent in Messi, it has done the right thing by standing up to its most profitable club and setting a clear example that this competition must be fair and without prejudice, everything the Super League was not.