Lionel Messi’s transfer request brought Barcelona fans to protest against the club’s hierarchy – but there is still some hope Leo and Barca can kiss and make up, writes Sky’s Gary Cotterill…
The anger of Barcelona fans is clear. And not only from the banner hanging from a gate outside the club president’s office. It translates to “Josep Bartomeu, you are a joke. We want you dead”.
Harsh. Very harsh. But they are a passionate lot here.
Around 200 supporters defied coronavirus restrictions to gather outside the stadium on Wednesday night, just as they did the night before. Most of them were peaceful, if noisy.
But a small breakaway group managed to breach security and enter the stadium concourse in search of the president. It turned out a futile search, because Señor Bartomeu was not in.
There’s very little doubt who is being blamed for the Messi mess, and it is not Lionel. Leo is not lying, according to a survey carried out by Spanish newspaper Marca.
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So far 200,000 Barcelona supporters have been questioned, and the results have been broken down into what readers of the Spanish publication feel.
Sixty-two per cent of them believe Messi’s version of that contract get-out clause, and say he should be allowed to leave for free. Sixty-four per cent are of the view the Argentine already has a new club lined up, and almost half of them say he is heading for a reunion with Pep Guardiola.
Surveys are all well and good of course, but you get a real sense that inside, deep inside, everyone hopes that, somehow, Leo and Barca can kiss and make up. But that seems unlikely.
“This is not Barca,” one fan told me. “We used to be the best club in the world, not anymore. I think Leo is tired of all the politics, the protests won’t work. He is going to City.”
Another could not bear to contemplate what shirt Messi may wear next.
“Leo was right to criticise the club, he should have done it more,” he said. “The team isn’t competing, the players are also to blame – but it’s the president who signed them.”
We have been here before, of course. Messi is not adverse to threaten to leave for political reasons only to get what he wants and eventually stay.
But this time feels different. All the fans I have spoken to sense the same thing – Messi has had enough. They say things have gone wrong at Barcelona. It is badly run, and has been for quite some time.
It will be a wrench if Leo leaves. But there will be few, if any, hard feelings towards the 33-year-old who has won 33 major trophies at the club.
Insight: Messi’s contract situation explained
How can Messi leave Barcelona on a free? We take an in-depth look at the Argentine’s contract situation at the Nou Camp.
Tuesday’s stunning announcement has left the world of football in frenzy, but how did we get here and what’s the likelihood of Messi actually parting company with Barca?
With the help of Sky Sports News reporters and Spanish football experts, we delve into the inner legal workings of Messi’s Barcelona contract, the narrative underlining his transfer request and whether there is a club in world football who could pull off what would be the signing of the century.
Which club is best-placed to sign Messi?
A reunion with Guardiola at Man City? A link-up with Neymar and Mbappe at PSG? Inter Milan? Or a fantasy football switch to Juventus to play with Ronaldo?
The cost, of course, would be enormous – even if there is no transfer fee involved – but the rewards could also be huge.
Here, we look at the clubs in contention of pulling off this unexpected mega deal…
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