Little to play for, Barcelona focus on Lionel Messi’s future
With Barcelona’s season effectively over, Lionel Messi now has a big decision to make.
Should he finish out his career at the club that helped him become an all-time football great? Or have the team’s struggles to keep winning trophies convinced him that he can find more success in Paris or Manchester?
Barcelona were left without any chance of winning the Spanish league on Sunday, bowing out of the title race in demoralising fashion after letting Celta Vigo overhaul a goal by Messi and rally for a 2-1 victory. The 33-year-old extended his club-record tally to 672 goals with a header to give Barcelona a first-half lead. But like too many times in recent weeks, Barcelona’s defence let it down.
Barcelona have one game left on the calendar, but with nothing to play for except third place in the league, the club’s attention is now fully on the future of its inscrutable star.
Last summer, Messi had said he wanted to leave Barcelona after a campaign that finished without a title and a humiliating 2-8 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
When that exit was denied by the club, Messi said that he would focus on this season and put off any decision until this summer when his contract expires on June 30.
Since then, Joan Laporta has been elected for a second stint as the club’s president. Laporta ran Barcelona when Messi was just blossoming with the team and maintained a good relationship with the player and his family. Even so, Messi has not confirmed a decision on his future.
“I hope not,” coach Ronald Koeman replied when he was asked if he believed Messi had played his final match at Camp Nou — a stadium still without fans because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“He is still the best player in the world and today (Sunday) he showed that it is impossible to play without him,” Koeman said.
“He has scored 30 goals this season (in the league) and earned us a lot of points. It is up to Messi. For me and the club, we want him to stay with us. Because if Leo is not here, we have doubts about who can score.”
Messi’s long-time teammate Jordi Alba echoed Koeman’s view. “We hope this won’t be Messi’s last match at the Camp Nou, but it is a decision that he must take.”
Last month, The Times, London, had reported that Messi was set to sign a 10-year deal with Barcelona after fruitful talks between the club and his father Jorge.
“He is keen to stay and formal contract negotiations will begin once the seasons gets over. Barcelona have discussed offering the six-time Ballon d’Or winner a 10-year contract which would allow him to stay in Spain in the short-term and fulfil his long-term ambition of playing in MLS while performing an ambassadorial role for the club...,” the report had stated.