Messi 2021, as expected, aka “FC Dramalona”

We all have a friend to whom everything happens. Lost wallets, flooded apartments, car crashes, alien abductions. We get a cold, they get the Plague.

With that friend, we listen to them on the telephone, we read their emails, we help and we sigh, thankful that we aren’t that person.

Which makes it unfathomable why supporters of the most magnificent club in the world, a club whose omnipresent quality and success should inspire calm, nonetheless seek drama, create drama, even where there shouldn’t be any.

Lionel Messi took part today in the public signing of his new contract, a ceremonial action. The way business works, is that — let’s say a new office tower is going to be erected. The photo opportunity, featuring grinning moguls acting like they know what to do with a pickaxe, is precisely that — a gesture. The deal has been done, the financing in place, everything is go.

For months, people who would know, from Lionel Messi’s father, Jorge, to Josep Bartomeu to most recently, the head of La Liga, have been saying the contract is done. As in finished. And the only thing that awaits is the photo op. And yet, in the absence of that photo op. everyone wondered why Messi hasn’t renewed yet, when he had. He already signed the contract that mattered. The ceremonial picture with the pickaxe (or pen) is just publicity, so that the club can have something fancy to wave around on the website.

This season, Messi has been smiling more than ever before. In a recent interview on the day he received yet another golden bauble to add to the mountain of accolades, he said that he is enjoying football as he never has before. When he started the Juventus match from the bench, later saying that it was his decision as the season is long as he has to take care of himself — every sign points to a happy player who is comfortable where he is.

Yet, too much of a fanbase craves drama. He hasn’t signed. Why hasn’t he signed. He’s going to City, to be with Pep Guardiola, the only coach worthy of him. Doom.

And then he signed. No more drama for those who crave it. The real question is, why? Life contains enough drama. We have work, relationships, family stuff, the various stresses that make our day-to-day lives a challenge. Sport is, ideally, a refuge, a fantasy land in which millionaires in short pants caper about for our amusement. And yet, fanbase after fanbase, creates and seems to crave drama.

Neymar leaving Barça was logical. It was even a year later than a few of us predicted. He was at the right age, at the right level of his game, everything was right for him to leave. It made perfect sense.

Messi leaving Barça, even absent the ceremonial stuff, was completely illogical. Second kid, home in the city where he grew into a footballing colossus, just married to the only real girlfriend he has had. Messi is loyal to an extraordinary degree, as bright a Masia success story as any in the club’s history because the club also teaches character. Loyalty is part of character.

There was more drama around the renewal of Andres Iniesta, another player who, even though we went on record as saying there would be no trouble with his renewal on his part, people still worried. The board, Bartomeu, this and that. But Iniesta leaving Barça was illogical. When he talked about a feeling, that was on his part, can he still be the player he needs to be to help the club that he grew up in and with. No drama. He now has a contract for life.

Sport is beautiful, precisely because it is fantasy. We can’t do what the players do, which is what makes it so wonderful to watch. It’s like real-life movies, and we get to see it every week. Sport should be fun, not dramatic, except for the outcome of our team’s travails. When Messi makes a run, it’s pure. Life melts away as a genius goes to work. Iniesta glides across the pitch, playing with the calm certainty of a warlock. Exquisite. We are lucky, and should be giddy each and every time these merchants of joy shirt up to strive to bring us glee.

But we aren’t. Playing the wrong way, this and that, where is the midfield, perpetual drama at FC Dramalona. Meanwhile, the team has never looked happier and more cohesive, has a 10-point lead in Liga over the team still most likely to press them throughout the rest of the season, and has strolled into the Champions League knockout stages with a match still to play, a match that has been rendered meaningless thanks to a high-quality performance against a top European team.

Where is the drama, unless we create it?

“I’ve always said that FC Barcelona is my home and I am happy to extend that relationship with the club. I’m going to continue giving my all to offer our fans more joy. They’re the ones who encourage us every day and give us the strength to continue fighting for all of our targets.”

— Lio

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In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

14 Comments

  1. realdox
    November 26, 2017

    what a relief to hear Messi has signed another contract..

  2. Jim
    November 26, 2017

    Certainly good to have the pesky pic out of the road although I haven’t been aware of anyone here thinking he was going to move on. For me, it became irritating rather than worrying but I can see why they’d want to up his buyout after the late departure of Neymar, although in Messi’s case I suspect it’s completely irrelevant.

    We can maybe also put away a bit of the board hate for a while and enjoy the team. They wrapped up Messi’s renewal long ago, gave Iniesta the lifelong contract to give him the reins over his retiral, bought quite well in the summer with probably more to come, Barto has said he wants to move some on asap ( about time) , appointed EV who at least looks like a safe pair of hands, sit top of the league and are still doing good things along with it such as the recent World Children’s Day takeover of the club. We’re also paying the highest wages in Europe apparently, paid for by the record revenues. Still the millstone of the new stadium renovations to come but that’s been overdue.

    Not sure on either Ozil or Coutinho ( given his price and last few performances) but at least we’re not in crisis and have to grab anything going. I can see the sense in having a quality sub for Iniesta in the last twenty minutes or so I can see the thinking about Ozil but if we are looking for a keeper I think Coutinho would get my vote. Heart sorry to see Thisgo’s latest bad injury. He is and has always been the perfect fit for us. Maybe this will make him rethink his German adventure ?

    Just settling down to watch our game in a while and things look fine to me. Wasn’t impressed ( again) by Madrid yesterday. Will be a hard game tonight but another good test of our defence. It’ll be interesting to see who plays with Umtiti and how we deal without Pique.

    Only blight on my day ( so far ! ) was my cursory dipping in to Las Palmas to see if Samper was playing but no joy. Not sure why he was sent there, although they did do the dirty by buying Aqilani late on but looking at that side he must have don’t something pretty bad to keep missing out. They’re awful and no better than Granada last year. Who looked at them and thought Samper could learn something there ? I don’t blame EV as he had to make quick decisions to offload some mids and Samper is a decent guy who will do as told but he also doesn’t deserve this horror story.

    For me, I’d get rid of three or four of those who have had more than their time to settle in ( perm any from Suarez, Rafinha, Gomes, Turan, Vidal – what a ridiculously long list for a top club!) , pay Las Palmas to bring Samper home ( won’t cost much, they’re not playing him and I can’t understand why there wasn’t something written into the loan about appearances) and give him occasional appearances in the second half of the season then decide whether to let him go permanently or not.

    Anyway, onto the game . . .

    • georgjorge
      November 26, 2017

      I hear you about Samper, though – sadly – I don’t think he will be brought back. The decision was made to let him go, and he certainly didn’t get any chances to prove his worth in the meantime.

      The guy paired with Umtiti tonight is Vermaelen. Is it really a whole season since he played his last league game for us? It certainly feels like it. Not a safe bet by any means after such a long time out. But I can’t wait for the game.

      One thought about RM: There have been plenty of games for our team where they could conserve energy after 60 or 70 minutes, but for RM it looks like they have to fight to the end of every single game. They have some good rotation going on, but this could affect them a lot in the second half of the season. Well, enough about them, tonight is about the best two teams in La Liga ; )

  3. Jim
    November 26, 2017

    Fair point about RM.

    It’ll be interesting to see Vermaelen tonight. I used to really rate him before injuries took hold of his career. I’d love to see him do well. He certainly has the experience and know how. Whether he has the fitness, we’ll see.

    I’m not sure that Samper will be brought back either. What I do know is that he wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip preseason after us putting him to a horror show last. It was an easy decision for EV given we couldn’t know if we’d get rid of any of the journeymen. I’m also of the opinion that the skills he has, control of ball, vision, passing are exactly what we need. What I’m less sure of are his defensive capabilities and that’s what I’d like to see when he is playing with players who understand and move with passing in mind. Won’t see that playing at another club.

  4. Bruce Wayne
    November 26, 2017

    Wow. That was the biggest goal robbery I have ever seen. We need to pay for our own goal tech.

    • G6O
      November 26, 2017

      Last year was worse – there was the exact same situation away against Betis, even worse in fact because the ball was much deeper behind the goal line than today, the goal was not given, and we drew there instead of winning.

      That decision and a couple others like it cost us the league

  5. Bruce Wayne
    November 26, 2017

    …And now we’ve conceded. If we don’t win today…

  6. TITO
    November 26, 2017

    Suarez and Rakitic competing who will have a worse game or i guess a season.
    And Delofeu just confirming that his decision making when he has the ball is equal to stupidity, and he learnt nothing during his loan time. Again and again the same mistakes.
    Nevertheless, Suarez remains for me as the biggest disappointment this season. Absolutely useless in almost everything except complaining.

      • TITO
        November 26, 2017

        Everything else was and is positive.
        Or u asked this just for the sake of asking?

  7. ooga aga
    November 26, 2017

    Didn’t see the whole match but saw some very nice ball movement from us near the end. I saw that they only had one shot on goal — the one they scored — to eight for us. The stats suggest we controlled the match anyway but Valencia did look good on the counter from what I saw. I’ll take the draw away at the second place team also knowing we shoulda won 2-1. Interested to hear what others thought about the match.

  8. georgjorge
    November 26, 2017

    I thought the first half was the best I’ve seen played under Valverde so far (taking the opponent into account). Relentless pressing, strong combination play, strong defending. Even a goal (that didn’t count). Second half, Valencia was the better team for the first 25 minutes, Barca for the rest.

    As for individual players, Suarez still nowhere near his normal form (and far too often offside), Paulinho and Rakitic not doing much to create something on the offense. The other starters were all very good though, especially Umtiti (Mascherano and Piqué rolled in one today), Alba (tight hold on his side, and the goal), and the magnificient man of the match, Busquets (those perfectly weighted passes straight to Messi were something else).

    So there are three teams still unbeaten in La Liga, and they top the table. Barcelona have scored the most AND conceded the least goals of all teams. As others have said, with an additional threat upfront (whether Dembelé or a winter signing or, I don’t know, an in-form Suarez) this team can do very very much this season.

    • Davour
      November 26, 2017

      What he said. Though a little worried about Messi’s recent form. A few passes missed that he normally would complete in his sleep. But that assist was wonderful,

      First half was great – but our attacking deficiencies were evident in second. Suarez and Deulofeu just don’t cut it, especially with Leo not at his best. Goal was on both Semedo and Rakitic.

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