Barcelona’s worst nightmare and their fans came true as Lionel Messi’s contract with Barcelona ended on Wednesday at midnight. The Argentine superstar, who has had two decades of association with the club and numerous trophies, is a free agent and can sign with any club at will.
Earlier, it was rumored that he was close to reaching a deal to extend his contract for another two years.
Messi’s future is a mystery, as his request to leave the club was denied at the end of the 2019-20 season. Eventually, he stayed and said he would reconsider his options when this season ended.
A lot has changed since he announced that he wants to leave the club. This decision was made soon after the team’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, one of the heaviest defeats in the history of the club and Mess. But since then, Barcelona have had a new coach with Ronald Koeman and a new president following the resignation of Josep Bartomeu, who was at odds with Messi.
It included Joan Laporta, who won the club’s presidential election in part because of his good relationship with the Argentine star. He was president when he started Messi’s career. Laporta recently said he was optimistic that Messi would renew his contract. Asked about Messi’s future on Wednesday, he briefly said, “Don’t worry.”
Messi excelled again this season, although he remained against his wishes. He led the Spanish league with 30 goals and helped the team win the Copa del Rey title.
In Messi’s previous contract, signed in 2017, he earned 138 million euros (164 million dollars) per season.
The game in favor of Barcelona to keep Messi was the fact that the club is slowly improving financially against the background of the coronavirus pandemic. Barça had hoped to provide Messi with a racing project for the season, as coach Ronald Koeman remained for a second season and some players arrived to bolster the squad, including Memphis Depei, Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.
Messi has won 35 titles in 17 seasons with Barcelona. He helped the club win the Champions League four times, the Spanish League 10 times, the Copa del Rey seven times and the Spanish Super Cup eight times.
While at the club, Messi won a record six Golden Ball awards. He is the team’s leading goal scorer of all time with 672 goals in 778 appearances and the top scorer in the Spanish league with 474 goals in 520 games. He is also the player with the most matches with the club.
He was the top scorer in the Spanish league in eight seasons and six times in the Champions League. His 26 goals against Real Madrid are a record for clásico’s matches against Barcelona’s fiercest opponent.
Messi arrived in Barcelona at the age of 13 when he and his family came to Spain to try their luck at the club’s youth academy. He made his official debut on October 16, 2004 and two years later helped the club win its first Champions League on a team led by Ronaldinho.
(With AP inputs.)