Lionel Messi’s departure has left Barcelona fans reeling but the domino effect could lead to their arch rivals Real Madrid securing their ‘dream’ transfer this summer
Lionel Messi: Possible PSG move discussed by Julien Laurens
Many Barcelona fans will have entered a state of numbness and shock on Thursday evening as their club have confirmed the departure of Lionel Messi.
There are said to be seven emotional stages of grief with ‘shock and denial’ the initial reaction -supporters of the Blaugrana will be struggling to digest the news that their superstar, their talisman, their icon, is leaving the Camp Nou.
Their club are in a financial crisis, neither able to agree terms with the 34-year-old nor register any of their four summer signings.
The grim reality of the club’s mounting debt and austere economic outlook is now beginning to bite and many Barca followers will be wondering if the situation can get any worse. It can.
Messi leaving Barca is stunning on many levels but perhaps the most notable is the timing – coming over five weeks after his deal expired, and just 10 days from the club’s first La Liga match of the campaign.
He was granted an extended holiday following his exploits for Argentina at this summer’s Copa America – where he finally landed his first piece of major international silverware, ticking off the one remaining box of greatness that had eluded him for so long.
The list of potential destinations for Messi is small; Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are the only two standout clubs who could feasibly finance such a move.
Messi’s news came on the same day that City broke the British transfer record to sign playmaker Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, while their main pursuit remains Tottenham striker Harry Kane.
PSG are the most likely destination for a multitude of reasons – they have greater resources than anywhere else, they are inescapably attracted to star names (hence their signings of Sergio Ramos, among others this summer) and the two most expensive transfers of all time belong to them.
One of them is Messi’s former Barca teammate, Neymar, and the other is Kylian Mbappe – both star forwards are now likely to take central stage in the Argentine’s future.
Messi and Neymar are close friends – alongside Luis Suarez, they formed the ‘MSN’ attacking trident at Barcelona and they still share an exclusive WhatsApp group, such is their closeness.
Two years ago, Neymar informed the group of his willingness to return to the Camp Nou and so Messi instructed Barca to pursue the deal.
The Catalan giants were aware they did not have the finances to do so, but spent the entire summer leaving to their friendly press outlets that they were interested in Neymar – purely to satisfy Messi’s hopes of being reunited with his teammate.
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Earlier this week, a picture circulated of Messi alongside Neymar this summer, with other PSG stars Angel Di Maria and Marco Verratti among the party.
That in itself is no evidence that Messi is on the verge of a move to the French capital but it demonstrates his closeness to that group of players and recent history has highlighted the importance of personal friendships to the 34-year-old within his team.
Not pictured within the group is Mbappe, who is out of contract in Paris next year and contract talks are at a standstill; PSG face the nightmare scenario of losing him as a free agent next July.
Mbappe is a long-term transfer target of Real Madrid and is widely reported to be their ‘dream signing’.
AFP via Getty Images)
Los Blancos have spent the past four transfer windows easing their wage bill and outgoings – multiple player departures with just one arrival, a free agent – with this speculated to be a long-term plan to accommodate the arrival of the French superstar.
The Parisians have already undergone a transfer splurge this summer – Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Gianluigi Donnarumma and former Madrid captain Ramos have all arrived.
The club may have immense resources of wealth, but they still must comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations and the sale of Mbappe – whilst hugely regrettable – may now be a damage limitation exercise, as they can still attain a significant fee for his services.
Furthermore, the club are now – by a considerable distance – the most likely destination for Messi, and any hopes they have of financing his deal on top of their summer recruitment is dependant on a significant exit.
This sequence of deals would be extraordinary, but it is becoming an increasingly likely scenario with Messi now without a club and with Barca’s confirmation that he will not stay at the club.
The exit of the Argentine genius has left Barcelona supporters stunned and asking themselves what is next, but his departure triggering a domino effect that sees Mbappe arrive at their greatest rivals will answer that query.
The last of the seven stages of grief is said to be ‘acceptance and hope’ – it may be some time yet until followers of Barca reach that point.
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