“I'm leaving, but it's not goodbye, just see you later. Visca el Barca!!!"Lionel Messi

These were the last words of Leo as he left Football Club Barcelona. It was the day when the whole city of Barcelona wept tears of sorrow and misery, the day they had never dreamed of. La Pulga, the pride of Barcelona, left the club and its fans in an utter state of shock!

Humble Beginnings...

It all started in the year 2000 when Messi was just 13. After seeing his trials for the first time, the officials of Barcelona were so impressed that they immediately wanted to sign him. On 14th December 2000, Messi signed for FC Barcelona and that too surprisingly, on a piece of a napkin!

After showing exceptional talent and potential at La Masia, Barcelona Youth Academy, Messi made his debut for FC Barcelona senior team at just 16.

Becoming Greatest Of All Time

Barca is surely one of the greatest clubs of all time, but they were a little behind when it came to European glory. Before 2005, they had managed to win the UEFA Champions League only on 1 occasion. But on Leo Messi’s 2nd UCL campaign at the age of 18, the club won it again, ending their European drought of 14 years!

One of the biggest achievements that a Barcelona player can have is scoring a hat-trick against Real Madrid, one of football’s greatest and more importantly, eternal rivals of Barca. Messi did that at 19, making it the first hat-trick of his career!

From then on, the story of FC Barcelona and Leo Messi has been nothing short of a Fairy tale. He smashed every record of the club that was previously thought of as unachievable. He became the club’s all-time highest scorer and assist maker, netting 672 goals and assisting 266. He even broke the record of most appearances for FC Barcelona, appearing in the blue and garnet colors 778 times.

He has won 40 trophies with FC Barcelona. It is 30% of a club’s history, that has existed for over 120 years! To Messi, Barca was more than a club, it was his home, his one true love, his kingdom. And to Barcelona, Messi was more than a player, he was their king.

But every fairy tale’s ending is not a happy one. So was the case of Leo Messi. And it all started with one man. Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The Beginning of The End

On 23rd January 2014, the then Barcelona president, Sandro Rosell, resigned for the infamous “Neymar Case”. And as vice president, Josep Maria Bartomeu was the immediate candidate and became the 40th president of FC Barcelona.

Under his campaign, Barcelona simply lost its identity. The football club, which was known for its sensational youth academy, La Masia, was now a typical player hunting club, that spent millions to sign marquee players.

He was one of the main reasons behind the $225 million transfer saga of Neymar, one of Barca’s pillars of attacking. Neymar was Messi’s best friend and as a result, Messi was very shocked at this news. But that is not all. Bartomeu spent a staggering £1 Billion on failed transfers to replace Neymar that exhausted Barca’s transfer budget and crippled its economy.

Amidst such heavy expenditures, Bartameu started construction of a new stadium for FC Barcelona in 2019 which was another Billion dollar expense. Under him, Barca was slowly progressing towards a state of financial absurdity, the club had never seen before! During this time period, Barca was no longer a top European club. They were getting eliminated after being slammed with results like 3-0, 4-0 from the likes of Roma and Liverpool respectively.

But the worst night in the modern history of FC Barcelona came on 14th August 2020. Barca lost to FC Bayern Munich, conceding not 2, not 3, but a massive 8 goals!! Barca lost 8-2 to Bayern. That night, Barca also lost the confidence of Bartameu entirely.

Nail to the coffin

During Bartameu’s campaign, Messi was humiliated several times at professional as well as personal levels. So much so that he wanted to leave FCB in 2019. But because of Bartomeu’s trickery, Messi could not do so and was forced to stay. But the nail to the coffin was when the actual finances of the club were revealed to the public. The club was in a neck-deep BILLION DOLLAR DEBT!!

To make the situation even worse, the Barcagate scandal came into the highlight, social media campaigns carried out on the orders of Bartameu to throw dirt onto the names of current and ex-players of Barcelona. For this, the club had to pay a million-dollar as well. At last, on 28th October 2020, Bartameu resigned.

The Inevitable

On 7th March 2021, Joan Laporta became the president of Barcelona. He promised the Culers that Messi would stay. But it was like promising to touch the moon with feet on the ground. Because of new Laliga wage limits and the club’s Billion dollar debt, Barcelona had to drastically cut down the wages of the players. Messi was more than happy to continue at FC Barcelona with a 50% wage cut. But even after countless tries and false hopes given by the board, nothing was possible. Messi had to leave Barcelona on a free transfer to balance the finances.

Final words...

“This is really difficult for me after so many years, being here my entire life. I’m not ready for this.”

This is what Leo Messi said at the very beginning of his farewell speech. He was living his dream at Barcelona, his boyhood favorite club. And neither he nor the club deserved such an ending.

But it is what it is. To see Messi in another jersey other than Barca’s is quite unbelievable. But what is harder to believe, is Barcelona without Leo Messi, a day no Barca fan could have imagined.

.    .    .