It seemed like it would only take days, if not hours to announce that Lionel Messi was freed from Barcelona and signed a new contract. However, eight days prior to the new season began, Messi announced that he would not be returning.
The club released a Messi-themed video shortly after. This made possible the previously unimaginable scenario that Messi and Barcelona would split.
Marca, a Spanish newspaper based in Barcelona, reported that Messi signing was impossible. A couple of hours later, the club announced and pointed fingers at La Liga, the Spanish league.
Barcelona blames La Liga
Barcelona stated in clear terms that they wanted to sign a contract — recent reports have suggested that Messi would accept a 50% reduction in his salary in order to achieve this — however, league regulations prevented it from happening.
Barcelona released the following statement: “Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi reaching an agreement, and both parties clearly intending to sign a new contractual contract today,”
Messi will not remain at FC Barcelona as a consequence of the situation. Both the players and club deeply regret the decision to not fulfill their wishes.
Leo #Messi will not continue with FC Barcelona
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona), August 5, 2021
La Liga regulations, which were implemented in 2013, have a salary cap floating for all clubs that limits the wages of players and their acquisition costs to 70% of revenues.
After a dramatic drop in revenue due to the COVID-19 epidemic, FC Barcelona had to cut well over $200M in salary in order to fulfill this requirement. The Blaugrana had very little European transfer activity, so the Blaugrana realized that signing Messi would not be possible under these circumstances.
Many saw the announcement by La Liga of an enormous private equity investment in its clubs and La Liga’s teams as helping Barcelona to balance their player budget. This was almost a guarantee that the Messi deal would happen. Based on La Liga’s revenue sharing formulas, Barcelona would receive a cash injection of more than $300 million. 15% of this money would go to player signings.
However, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid both expressed opposition to CVC Capital Partners’ private equity deal. This is due to be voted upon by the 42 La Liga clubs.
According to observers, the agreement would have led to clubs attaching their financial resources to La Liga for the next decades and thus sacrificing their Super League dreams. This is the only explanation for why Barcelona with a debt of more than $1B would turn down this kind of investment. It would be on the same level as the cash advance that would be granted to the Super League.
Did the Barcelona-Messi talk just for fun?
Barcelona was certain that Messi would not be signed and his salary could still fit within the budget for its players. With no signers for the high-salaried players in the transfer window, it was impossible for Barcelona to make room for Messi, according to league rules.
Some media speculate that Barca did not wait until the week before the season to blame La Liga for its stringent rules. Others believe it was a PR stunt to aid management in dealing with the backlash from the fans over the club’s most beloved player being made redundant due to a poor financial position. This distracts from years of poor management that led to massive debts now burdening the club, as well as the financial challenges caused by the pandemic.
Many people have speculated that Messi knew that he would never sign for Barcelona, and that maybe he just wanted to leave the club in order to avoid a rebuilding. Messi can use the “La Liga Regulations” to leave the club, while keeping his fan base’s loyalty intact.
He’s now out of reach of media because he isn’t under contract. Because Messi is a free agent, he can sign as many times as he likes with any club. Only signings that involve players who are currently under contract with one team and then moving to another do not have to be completed by Aug 31.
It could be an elaborate bluff. Is Messi possible to return?
A second group of cynics believes that the Barcelona declaration — interestingly not followed up with a statement from Messi’s side or a goodbye note — may be an attempt by La Liga to make changes to the rules or create an exception to the existing ones.
La Liga cannot afford Messi as an employee, even though it has just signed a $175 million TV rights agreement with ESPN over eight-years ($1.4 billion). Without Messi, what value could La Liga possibly have?
Javier Tebas, president of La Liga has insisted that the rules would not be manipulated and Barcelona will receive no special treatment. Barcelona will likely call his bluff if it has its back against the wall. This is especially because Tebas’s position, buoyed in part by the private investment deal, and rule changes one week prior to the season, are extremely unlikely.
What is the difference between last summer’s Messi drama and this one?
The situation was quite different last year. Messi made public his intention to quit in 2020 with only one year remaining on his six-year, $675m Barcelona contract. According to him, he was bound by a verbal deal with Josep Bartomeu regarding his release from the club’s contract.
Bartomeu wasn’t going to allow the Barcelona legend to go, so Messi decided to stay on for an additional season.
Many thought that Bartomeu’s departure and Joan Laporta becoming his replacement earlier in the year meant that there would be a chance for Laporta to find a way of keeping Messi at Barcelona, given the close bond he had with Messi during his tenure as club president when it was the club’s most successful period.
Maybe Laporta knew the outcome even though he campaigned for the presidency on the basis of his ability to ensure that Messi is kept at the club’s best. Laporta knew that the financial position he inherited (below), was fragile. On Friday, Laporta will speak to the media to discuss the situation.
Laporta will hold a Spanish press conference on Friday to provide more information about the Messi drama.
As media representatives begin to pour into Camp Nou and the team ahead of Sunday’s Joan Gamper Cup against Italian superpower Juventus, observers will be looking for Messi’s public statements.
They will also be keeping an eye on the Rumor Mill, where Paris Saint-German is the French superpower and the most likely team to move for Messi’s now-free agent.
Depuis plusieurs heures, Leo #Messi est en discussions avec le Paris Saint Germain. Des negociations sont en cours. Le PSG est tres attentif a la situation afin de trouver une solution. #PSG
— Mohamed Bouhafsi (@mohamedbouhafsi) August 5, 2021
Publited Fri, 06 August 2021 at 03:15.48 +0000