Lionel Messi will be a Barcelona player in the 2020-’21 season, that much seems certain for now.
Even in the most troubling of times, the Argentine’s future at the club had never truly been in doubt throughout the course of his career at the Camp Nou. But the developments in the past six months have made one of the most loyal players in world football question his decision to remain at a club where he grew up from a talented kid to a global superstar.
On Friday, Messi ended weeks of speculation around his future at Barcelona by saying that he will stay at the club for the upcoming season when it seemed certain that he would leave the club after two decades in Catalunya.
Despite a heavy desire to move, Barcelona’s insistence on not allowing Messi to leave without having his release clause of $833 million being met, meant the Argentine decided to stay put in order to avoid a legal battle with a “club of his life”.
Even with the Messi transfer saga now settled, it seems clear that Messi’s relationship with Barcelona, especially with the board and even more so with president Josep Bartomeu is forever fractured.
Barcelona would now have time on their hands to convince the Argentine to stay at the club beyond 2021, but it is likelier that Messi would move elsewhere on a free transfer at the end of the upcoming season with his contract being up.
As Messi and Barcelona both look to bury the hatchet at least for the time being, here’s a look at how Messi’s relationship with Barcelona turned sour over the last year:
February 5, 2020:
Messi hit back at sporting director Eric Abidal (not in power anymore) over claims that slackness in the dressing room led to the departure of former coach Ernesto Valverde.
“We the players in the dressing room are the first to admit it when we haven’t played well. The directors need to take their responsibilities too.
“I believe that if you talk about the players (in this way) you should name names instead of worrying everyone and encouraging rumours that are far from certain,” Messi had said in an Instagram post.
February 17, 2020:
Reports emerged that Barcelona hired a PR company, I3 Ventures to cleanse the image of Josep Bartomeu. The company managed up to 100 Twitter and Facebook accounts that attacked the likes of Messi in order to paint a favourable picture of Bartomeu.
February 19, 2020:
Barcelona released a statement that the club “strongly denies any relationship and, furthermore, the contracting of services linked to social network accounts that have spread negative messages or disdain in relation to any person, entity or organisation that has or has had a relationship with the club.”
February 20, 2020:
Messi said it was “strange” to see Barcelona locked in a row over a company accused of criticising current and former players, including himself, on social media.
According to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser Catalunya, the company had overseen “dozens” of accounts attacking the likes of Messi, Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Pep Guardiola and Carles Puyol on Facebook and Twitter.
Among the messages the report cited is one expressing anger towards Messi for his delay in signing a new contract and another questioning Pique’s involvement in tennis’ Davis Cup.
“The truth is that I find it strange that something like this happens,” Messi had said.
“But they also said that there would be evidence. We will have to wait to see if it is true or not. We cannot say much and wait to see what happens with all this. It seems a strange issue,” added the Barca captain.
March 30, 2020:
Messi took a swipe at president Bartomeu claiming that the players were put under pressure to take pay cuts in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic when the players very well understood the magnitude of the situation and were willing to contribute to the club in a time of global crisis.
“We want to clarify that our desire has always been to apply a drop in salary because we fully understand that this is an exceptional situation and we are the first ones who have ALWAYS helped the club when asked.
“Therefore, it never ceases to amaze us that from within the club there were those who tried to put us under the magnifying glass and tried to add pressure to do something that we always knew we would do,” he had said in March.
July 3, 2020:
Reports emerged that Messi is unwilling to extend his current contract that runs out in 2021 and was looking to leave the club when the contract expires.
July 17, 2020:
Real Madrid pip Barcelona to the La Liga crown. Messi called Barcelona ‘weak’ and said fans were right to be angry with the team.
“We didn’t expect or want it to end in this way, but it’s a reflection of our season. We have been an inconsistent, weak team that has been beaten in intensity and desire. It has been easy to score goals against us,” Messi said after Real Madrid won the title.
“I have said before that if we continued playing as we were it would be difficult to win the Champions League and now it’s clear it wasn’t even enough to win La Liga,” Messi added then.
August 15, 2020:
Barcelona were humbled 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-final as the Catalans go trophy-less in a season for the first time since 2008. The defeat meant Barcelona had also failed to win the Champions League for five straight seasons. Messi’s body language told a story: he’s had enough.
August 25, 2020:
Messi informed Barcelona his desire to leave the club through an official document and asked to activate the ‘get-out’ clause in his contract that would see him leave for free.
August 26, 2020:
In first official response from the club, Barcelona sporting director Ramon Planes said the club wants him to stay and are aiming to build a new team around the Argentine.
August 28, 2020:
Messi asked for a personal meeting with the Barcelona board and his lawyers to discuss a solution that would help him secure a move away from the club.
August 30, 2020:
Messi missed Barcelona’s pre-season coronavirus tests. On the same day, La Liga release a statement backing Barcelona’s stance on the dispute over his release clause, stating the Argentine will only leave if his €700m release clause is paid in full.
August 31, 2020:
Messi missed Barcelona’s first training session under new manager Ronald Koeman.
September 2, 2020:
Messi’s father and agent Jorge landed in Barcelona for showdown talks with club president Bartomeu and the board. He said it is “difficult” for his son to stay at the club.
September 4, 2020:
Jorge Messi insisted the €700m release clause is “not applicable at all” and released a statement against La Liga’s verdict on the situation.
September 4, 2020:
In the end, however, Messi confirmed in an interview with Goal he will remain with Barcelona for next season following talks with club president Bartomeu. When it became increasingly clear any club would have to pay the release clause, Messi decided not to take the ‘club of his life’ to court.
September 7, 2020:
Lionel Messi arrived at Barcelona’s training ground on Monday as he begins to reintegrate with the team following his failed attempt to leave the club this summer.
You can watch the interview here: