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.”