For a club that has been a complete and utter shitshow for too long, there was no other way for its greatest player to leave — reluctantly at a teary solo presser.
For a club that has been a complete and utter shitshow for too long, that it loses its greatest player to its bitterest European rival is also typical.
Barça can’t do anything right.
Xavi was the perfect departure, posting for pictures in front of the spoils of a Treble, confetti raining down. That Messi’s departure was more like Abidal’s than Xavi’s should coat everyone involved in the process in shame.
Messi didn’t want to leave, and thought he was staying. He went to the contract signing Thursday, only to find out that everything was off, that the club couldn’t afford to keep him. Essentially, Messi is surplus to fiscal requirements. Let that sink in. Bartomeu made a mess. Tebas offered a lifeline that wasn’t the best deal, but it would have made keeping Messi and treading water possible until the full return of fans, more restructuring, jettisoning big salaries and Messi would have been able to retire from the club he grew up at in a proper way: a packed Camp Nou bursting at the seams with adulatory roars.
Laporta said no. As a consequence he’s walking, sadly, toward a payday and possible European glory with Paris St. Germain.
There is anger. Lots of anger. The club is acting like it was a normal departure, posting up pictures, the video of the presser, fronting like this entire process isn’t covered in greed, avarice, shame and ugliness.
Already there is anger at the players — Dembele, Umtiti, Pjanic, Griezmann, Coutinho, Alba — names being tossed about as culprits because they wouldn’t take a pay cut, or leave. And those players are going to face the anger of a fanbase that doesn’t have a clear picture, so it’s lashing out at the easy targets. And that’s wrong. For me, the time for anger is past. The time for misdirected anger is certainly past. For so long, some of us have railed about Rosell, and Bartomeu and the damage they were doing and were going to do. But the football was on, so nobody cared. Now that the price is clear, there is outrage. Too late.
Had the socis who voted for him been told that Messi would be the ultimate cost, it’s a safe bet they would have voted differently. But what life does is saddle us with consequences of our decisions. But life also changes. The old adage is that death and taxes are the two eternal verities but to my view, it’s change and consequences. The club made choices over the years, just as it made one this week. Changes and consequences. Messi is leaving, the csonsequence is that he’s heaving for PSG, where he believes he will be happy. Is there joy in it? You wonder. Will, should such a thing come to pass, hoisting the Champions League trophy feel the same for Messi as doing in Blaugrana? You know it won’t. But he’s moving on, and we should as well.
We should thank him for the 21 years of magnificence, for lifting the team that we love to untold heights, for making every touch of the ball a moment that made us slide forward on our seats in anticipation. There’s even a certain bit of symmmetry in Ray Hudson, the announcer whose verbal extravagance highlighted so many of Messi’s great league moments that you almost couldn’t imagine the two of them apart, also left this summer.
It’s difficult to imagine how extraordinary a talent graced us, and will continue to grace us for those with the stomach to watch PSG. Athletes make magic that allows us vicarious joy. And so many love them for that. Messi leaves the club as much an enigma as he arrived. He was as private as he was loyal, and there is so much love and devotion for a human that none of us knows. That is the amazing part of athletics. It also raises the question of what do we owe athletes in return for what they give us. Adulation and love are selfless, should make us be happy for someone even if they are making a choice that we don’t agree with. So let Messi be happy, thank him and understand the thing that his tears at the press conference made clear: he loves Barça and will always love Barça. Be as classy as he was on the day of his final words under the aegis of the club.
Messi could have rolled in and set the world on fire, hurling bombs and recriminations like the many perfect passes he doles out. He didn’t. He wept, said he wanted to stay and was as always, classy and loyal. You want to honor and respect Messi? Be like him.
Laporta has a hard job in front of him, consequences of his decision to forego the CVC lifeline, sketchy as it was, for the even sketchier prospect of a SuperLeague. There are only three teams still committed to that deeply expensive project. He will have to manage not seeming like he is beholden to Florentino Perez, while working to keep Barça from becoming AC Milan. He has a huge job on his hands and deserves our respect for making what must have been such a difficult decision, and our support as he works to build something from the emotional and fiscal ashes of the circumstances that have led to the gretest player in the game bidding a reluctant farewell to the club that he should have retired at.
We will never know all of the reasons. Ever. But Messi stood alone at that podium, and even as you could wonder about what that meant, why he chose to do this with nobody from the club there, not even the president who promised us all that he would continue at the club and who presided over the team’s greatest period, it was fitting. He stood as alone as he has been all these years as presidents worked to build a workable team around him, ultimately winding up with kids, geezers and never-will-bes. And still, Messi wanted to stay. All the rumors, all the nonsense about him leaving because of the sporting project were washed away in the tears of a proud, loyal genius of an athlete who, in his own words, is leaving his home.
Some are saying they will no longer support Barça after the Messi departure. That’s their choice. But the folks who are here have a team to watch, uplift and support. Because life also goes on. It’s imopssible to write anything that would be able to capture what Messi has done, has meant. All you can do is tell someone to go to YouTube, search his name and settle in for a few weeks. And for a while, a great while, Barça won’t feel the same. All of the times that the Number 10 has not been in the lineup have been due to circumstance. He’s resting, he’s injured, rotation. For the first time, on the day of the Gamper Trophy match of all days, Number 10 won’t be in the lineup because he’s gone.