Six Ballon d’Or awards, 10 Spanish league titles, four Champions League titles… Lionel Messi’s career at Barcelona has been nothing but phenomenal.
Yet his seeming unending romance with the club appeared to be hanging on by a thread — a development that has literally caused an earthquake in the football landscape.
On Tuesday, Messi dropped the bombshell when he informed the club that he’s leaving — after an impressive run spanning almost 20 years.
The Argentine forward was said to have communicated his intention to the club on Tuesday via fax.
His announcement didn’t come as a surprise to many though. Barcelona is undergoing arguably the toughest phase of its existence which has seen the club’s reputation as one of the best teams in the world plummeting at the tick of every second.
Barcelona’s biggest strength lies in its philosophy of playing possessive football, dominating oppositions and winning in unique ways. These characteristics were glaring during Pep Guardiola’s four-year stay at the club which saw him snagged 14 trophies.
Since his departure, however, the club has suffered a drift in ideology and has spent most of the post-Guardiola years experimenting new methods under coaches that are seemingly at odds with the team’s founding ideals.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu has also become a threat to the club’s survival with strings of akward decisions, particularly in the transfer market. Barca has done woefully when it comes to signing new players in the recent times.
Amid all these, however, Messi has maintained his influence as the go-to-man, winning matches and grinding out results even when the club is not at its best.
But Messi seems to be running out of patience with the club, especially after Barcelona’s humiliation by Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League (UEFA) quarter-finals.
From the foregoing, it is not difficult to understand why Messi appears hell-bent on leaving, especially with no drastic overhaul in the club’s leadership and structure in sight.
But the decision has also left the wantaway Barcelona star with the biggest question of his career: which club to go.
At 33, Messi is no doubt in the final stages of his illustrious career and while he has maintained his blistering form, he is unlikely to continue at such top level for long due to age.
Already, there are several teams that have indicated interest in signing Messi. Manchester City, PSG, Chelsea, Manchester United, Inter Milan among others have been heavily linked with him.
It remains unseen if Messi will perform as expected in other clubs outside Barcelona where he has spent a huge chunk of his active playing years as a footballer, considering the intensity and energy he will need to remain at top form in those clubs.
Some pundits have argued that he should stay put at Barcelona — a club he joined at 14 — amid talks of a possible rebuild. Others argued that he should leave, with some schools of thoughts even contending that his departure would facilitate Barcelona’s rebuilding process.
Whether or not he will leave eventually is a matter of time.
For now, however, Messi faces a tough test determining what next for him — a move that can make or mar how well he ends a career he started on a high note.