he reality of Messi’s departure is starting to sink in among Barcelona’s supporters, and the club’s future might go one of two directions: positive or terrible.
In the Barcelona players’ WhatsApp group and on social media, there was first silence. However, after the shock wore off, the tributes and farewells began to arrive.
This was happening in real-time. Carles Puyol, the club’s former captain, was the first to applaud Lionel Messi for his contributions. The present squad began to post after that.
“I was fortunate enough to witness your first goal at Camp Nou in 2005 against Albacete, and I never imagined we would one day be so close that we could understand each other just by looking at one other,” Jordi Alba wrote.
“I’m eternally thankful,” Sergi Roberto added. He continued, “Thank you for all the happiness you have brought us, for all the goals you have scored, and for all the moments you have helped me live.”
While nobody could believe Messi’s 21-year stay at Barcelona was coming to an end, that he would no longer be accompanying his teammates for training or receiving the proper farewell, the club must now look forward, and soon.
How Barcelona would cope without Messi has been a topic of discussion in recent years, especially since the club’s reliance on him has grown since Neymar’s departure.
With the Argentine set to join his former teammate in Paris, at PSG, Barca will have to adjust to life without Messi, their greatest legend ever, who was seemed set to stay for another two years.
It is for a fact that anytime Barca fails to score, the obvious reaction will be to emphasize how much they need Messi, but there are two possible outcomes in the medium to long term, one positive and one negative.
Messi’s presence has long been suspected of inhibiting his colleagues, who are fearful of playing beside one of the game’s greatest icons. For example, Antoine Griezmann has appeared to struggle with Lionel Messi, and the three players, along with Philippe Coutinho, have a tendency to operate in similar places, resulting in Barcelona being small and spaces being impossible to maneuver.
In a similar fashion, Messi’s inability to effectively press means Barca cannot operate in a system that relies on it, especially when Luis Suarez was also at the club. That can now change, though Memphis Depay will have to shoulder more defensive responsibility than he would like.
At Barcelona, the system has long accommodated Messi’s penchant to wander and dive deep for the ball, but now Ronald Koeman is free to play with any structure he wants, and no player will be too powerful to follow it.
“No player is larger than the club,” President Joan Laporta remarked, although Messi was for the previous decade.
There were concerns about Memphis’ risk-taking attitude, but now he is free to be the team’s creative leader, while Griezmann can play in the second striker role he has coveted for a long time.
Messi’s departure bodes well for Barca’s younger attackers and playmakers, with Yusuf Demir, Riqui Puig, and Alex Collado among those who could benefit. Ansu Fati is back from injury, Kun Aguero can score goals if he is fit, and Ousmane Dembele will be a great winter addition if his injury heals.
Barca has long needed to rebuild, but with Messi still at the helm at the age of 34, it has proven difficult. Pedri , Frenkie de Jong, and Sergio Busquets are still in charge of the midfield, while Gavi and Nico Gonzalez are making a great improvement.
Barcelona now has the foundation to launch an exciting new project, free of Messi’s outrageous salary, which would have remained exorbitant even if a 50% reduction had been agreed. In Messi’s absence, Barcelona’s fortunes could turn out this way.
Things could, though, change in a different direction. The club has the capacity to self-destruct; Laporta still needs to make cutbacks and get high-earning players like Miralem Pjanic and Samuel Umtiti off the books, and if he cannot, they may end up in Koeman’s lineups.
Fans, who were permitted to reclaim a tiny portion of Camp Nou at the start of the season, may turn on players who refused to take pay cuts, seeing them as part of the reason Messi had to depart.
Losing Messi would be a massive emotional blow to the squad, the club, and the fans, and it would be easy for Barcelona to fall into even deeper depression, especially if he joins one of their biggest rivals outside the country – Spain.
They had already been pushed out of the European elite and may now be even further isolated. Sponsorship arrangements are likely to reduce in value in the future as brands realize their names will not be proudly displayed on the Argentine’s chest or sleeve, putting the club’s finances at risk.
With Pique and Busquets in their late years and fading, Emerson and Eric Garcia lack experience at Champions League level, and Koeman now needing to devise a new strategy that does not contain the best player in the world, truth be told, there are a lot of sporting unknowns entering into the season.
When Messi broke his arm and was out for a month in 2018, Pique remarked, “Psychologically, we know that when he is there, we’re stronger, but we can’t allow his absence to affect us.”
Now that he is gone for good, Barcelona must maintain the same mindset in order to withstand Messi’s absence.