It could be a crucial week ahead with regards to the future of Lionel Messi, with the Argentinean star still said to be seriously considering his position at Barcelona.
The rumour mill has gone into overdrive ever since his side’s humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich, with some reports claiming it has convinced the six-time Ballon d’Or winner that the time has come to seek a new challenge after 16 glorious years at the Nou Camp.
But while the Bayern result may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, Messi’s unhappiness at the club appears to have been building up over the last year or so for a number of reasons.
Barcelona-based publication Mundo Deportivo have highlighted five key factors which they believe have contributed to the star’s disillusion at the Catalan giants.
Firstly, the club’s failure to re-sign Messi’s former teammate Neymar last summer despite strong rumours the PSG forward would make a dramatic return to the Nou Camp is said to have upset him, with Messi having formed a lethal partnership with the Brazilian during his time in Barcelona.
Instead, they splashed the cash on French international Antoine Griezmann in a big-money move from Atletico Madrid. Things haven’t worked out for the player so far, however, and his relationship both on and off the pitch with Messi has yet to spark.
Messi was also thought to be against the sacking of previous manager Ernesto Valverde in January.
The team were in poor form, but Messi had a good relationship with the coach and felt convinced he would be able to turn it around.
Valverde’s dismissal led to sporting director Eric Abidal’s criticism of the effort of the players in an interview with Sport , in which he said that ‘many players weren’t satisfied or working hard’ under Valverde – seemingly suggesting it was their fault that he got the sack in January.
In an extraordinary move, Messi – who is not exactly known for his outspoken demeanor – took to Instagram the next day to slam Abidal for his comments, saying: “The people in the sporting directorate should also assume their responsibility and above all take ownership of the decisions they make.
Valverde’s successor, Quique Setien, never managed to connect with Messi in the same way as his predecessor, in yet another factor that upset him.
And finally, Messi was also unhappy with the way Barcelona dealt with the coronavirus pandemic behind the scenes, and wrote an open letter on Instagram criticising the club for not acting quicker in helping the players find a solution before they eventually took a 70% pay cut.
With all these incidents added together, it is perhaps unsurprising that Messi is seriously considering leaving the club that he has spent his whole career.
New boss Ronald Koeman is doing all he can to try to convince him to stay, with his contract not due to expire until the end of next season.
But it would not come as a huge surprise to see Messi move on this summer.
The big question then would be: where does he go next? Over to you, Pep Guardiola.