Just when it seemed like it was only a matter of days or even hours before there was a long-awaited announcement from free agent Lionel Messi joining Barcelona on a new deal, the club announced just eight days before the start of a new league. season that Messi would not return.
Shortly after, the club released a Messi tribute video, cementing the once unthinkable reality that Barcelona and Messi are going their separate ways.
There was some kind of warning when the Barcelona Spanish daily Marca reported that there was a separate scenario that signing Messi would not be feasible. The club’s announcement came hours later and pointed the finger at the Spanish league, La Liga.
Barcelona blame La Liga
Barcelona’s statement unequivocally indicates that the club and the player wanted to strike a deal – reports in recent weeks have said Messi was ready to agree to a 50% pay cut to achieve it – but the regulations of the league made it impossible.
“Although FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi have reached an agreement and the clear intention of both sides to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen due to Spain‘s La Liga regulations on the registration of players, “said the Barcelona press release.
“Due to this situation Messi will not stay at FC Barcelona. Both sides deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club are ultimately not fulfilled.”
LATEST NEWS | Leo #Messi will not continue with FC Barcelona
– FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 5, 2021
Under La Liga rules introduced in 2013, there is a floating salary cap for all teams that limits player salaries and acquisition costs to 70% of club revenue.
In order to meet this requirement after a drastic reduction in income due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, FC Barcelona entered this summer offseason needing to lose more than $ 200 million in wages just to sign Messi. But limited transfer activity across Europe meant the Blaugrana fell far short of that figure, and on August 5 the club and player realized the signing couldn’t take place under the circumstances.
So, technically, it’s not La Liga’s fault, but FC Barcelona’s failure to comply with La Liga rules.
The announcement of a massive private equity investment in La Liga and its clubs the day before has been interpreted by many as helping Barcelona make the financial progress they need to virtually secure the deal with Messi. Projections based on La Liga’s revenue-sharing formulas saw Barcelona benefit from a cash infusion of more than $ 300 million from private equity funds, of which 15% would be used for player signings.
But it’s interesting that FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, two of La Liga’s most indebted clubs and both founding members of the escaped European Super League, have expressed opposition to the private equity deal with CVC Capital. Partners, which must always be voted on. by the 42 clubs of La Liga.
Observers say accepting the deal would have sold the two giants back to bond financially in La Liga for decades to come and thus give up their Super League ambitions. This is the only way to explain why Barcelona, ââwhich are said to be in debt of over $ 1 billion, would refuse this type of investment, which would have been on par with the proposed Super League cash advance on offer.
Was the Barcelona-Messi speech for the show?
There is a line of thinking that Barcelona knew from the start that they would never be able to sign Messi and fit his salary within the limits of his playing budget for the coming season. Given the development of the transfer season and the lack of takers for their well-paid players, Barcelona could not make room for Messi under any league rules.
Because Barca waited a week before the season to announce it, putting the blame squarely on La Liga and its onerous rules, some media speculate that the false hope created in recent weeks was a public relations ploy to help the management of the club to overcome the fan reaction that will undoubtedly come with the forced departure of Barcelona’s greatest player. In the court of public perception, club officials showed that at least they tried honestly.
Some have gone so far as to suspect that Messi was also well aware that he was never going to sign with Barcelona and that he might want to leave the club before the rebuilding ahead. The “La Liga rules” are a practical excuse to leave the club, giving the impression that he really wanted to be there and thus preserving his reputation with the fans.
During this time, since he no longer has a contract and does not have to be at the camp, he is out of sight of the media. And given his free agent status, Messi can take any time he wants to sign with a new club. The August 31 transfer deadline only applies to signings involving players under contract with one club and moving to another. However, if he wants to play in the UEFA Champions League, he must be signed before the September 2 registration deadline for that tournament.
Could it be a bluff? Could Messi come back?
Another group of cynics believe Barcelona’s statement – which interestingly has yet to be followed by a farewell statement or message from Messi’s camp – could be an attempt to force La Liga to change the rules or create an exception for the club.
The idea is that La Liga as a company can’t afford to lose Messi, especially when they just signed a TV rights deal with US broadcaster ESPN worth $ 175 million per year over eight years ($ 1.4 billion). How much would La Liga be worth without Messi?
But La Liga president Javier Tebas has been convinced in recent months that there will be no rule changes and no special treatment given to Messi or Barcelona. If Barcelona with their backs to the wall call their bluff then they are likely to be disappointed, especially since Tebas’ position is backed by the private investment deal. And rule changes a week before the season are highly unlikely.
Laporta ruled out any potential return at his press conference the next day: “I don’t want to generate false hopes,” he said. “The negotiations with Messi are over and this has brought us here without a deal because of the [La Liga] salary limit. Leo wanted to stay, so he’s not happy. We all wanted him to stay, but now, like us, he’s facing the reality of what happened. A reality that cannot be changed. “
How is this different from the Messi drama of last summer?
Last year the storyline involved other factors. In the summer of 2020, with a year remaining on his four-year, $ 675 million Barcelona contract, Messi made public his desire to leave, citing a falling out with club management. He said he had a verbal agreement with then-president Josep Bartomeu that he would be released from his contract with the club.
But when it became clear that Bartomeu was not about to let the Barcelona legend walk, Messi refused to sue the club on principle and chose to stay an extra season against his will.
Many believed that with Bartomeu stepping down and Joan Laporta taking his place earlier this year, there was a good chance that Laporta would find a way to keep Messi at Barcelona given his close relationship with him during his previous tenure in as club president, when the club enjoyed the most successful race in its history.
But perhaps Laporta, too, was aware of the likely outcome from the start despite his campaign for the presidency based on his ability to give the club their best chance at keeping Messi. The financial situation Laporta (below) inherited is precarious, and he knew it. We learned all about this reality when he spoke to the media on August 6 and described a financial situation which he said was far worse than he had been led to believe with losses of $ 572 million. dollars incurred during the 2020-2021 season.
It was a gloomy media encounter in which he left no room for a possible return. In fact, he explained that Messi is already attracting interest from other clubs, although he has not shared the details. Laporta also mentioned that the club will find a way to honor the player and give him a good start with the fans.
The blame game changed dramatically in this press conference: Laporta said he abided by the rules of the La Liga “financial fair play” list, and although they were ultimately the reason Messi was unable to sign, he said it was the club’s previous two administrations that put the club in financial disarray. Laporta sent the message that without their mismanagement, signing Messi would not have been a problem. He highlighted how he had held his end of the bargain by making a deal with Messi. It just wasn’t possible to execute it.
The private equity money in La Liga would have helped, but Laporta insisted that the club did not agree with the financial arrangement and more specifically, ceding 10% of La Liga’s income to the company, CVC Capital Partners, under the agreement.
“It would not be in Barca’s interest,” he said. “We were going to receive money, but we think that accepting it – and affecting our [revenue from] TV rights for the next 50 years – it’s not something we can do [to keep Messi]. It’s too risky. The club is above the players, coaches and presidents. “
What is happening now?
Observers will be looking for a public statement from Messi or one of his Barcelona teammates, especially as members of the media start to descend on the squad and Camp Nou ahead of Sunday’s annual Joan Gamper Cup against the giant Italian Juventus.
Ansu Fati became the first active Barcelona player to express his thanks to Messi via Instagram and Barcelona legend and former Messi teammate Xavi Hernandez also stepped in.
We’ll also be keeping an eye out for the rumor mill, which already has French giant Paris Saint-Germain as the team most likely to step up for now free agent Messi: