THE EURO FILES: Barcelona can offer Lionel Messi everything but money and the Saudis can offer him nothing else. It is a sad end to his club career and has parallels with Cristiano Ronaldo
- The Argentinian has been suspended by the French club for a trip to Saudi Arabia
- Lionel Messi will leave PSG this summer, although it is not clear where
- Sorry episode bears similarities to the end of Cristiano Ronaldo’s European career
Lionel Messi’s stay in Paris was not meant to end like this – with some 400 Paris Saint-Germain echoes turning up at the French club’s headquarters to sing insulting songs about him.
It could have been worse – they then went to Neymar’s house to abuse him from the other side of his security fence.
After PSG suspended Messi, withheld his wages and banned him from the training ground for two weeks, it looked unlikely he would play for them again. It remains to be seen if his video apology was sincere and will lead to a turnaround or if it is intended to make the club the bad guys.
It may also have been a sign that Messi needs the Paris option as an alternative. If he leaves, there are only two ways out: Barcelona, which can offer him everything except money, and Saudi Arabia, which can only offer him money.
It’s a sad end to his club career and there are some parallels with Cristiano Ronaldo, who he will join in Riyadh if he accepts Al-Hilal’s bid of an estimated £350 million per season.
Lionel Messi’s European career at the highest level seems to be coming to a very sad end
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar was suspended for two weeks this week for making an unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia
Messi is an ambassador for the country in the Middle East and was photographed this week filling that role
He has already taken the Saudi riyal, but it’s one thing to show up for a photo shoot to promote tourism, it’s quite another to take his family there for 12 months.
It was one of those photo shoots that got him in trouble this week. He had timed his latest trip to the kingdom to coincide with a day off from PSG. But then the French team lost at home to middle division Lorient last weekend and coach Christophe Galtier called on the players as punishment.
Suspending Messi for ‘not showing up for training’ was an opportunistic move by PSG. It made him the villain and took the heat off those who prove again this season that buying the most famous players in the world won’t get you the Champions League or even guarantee you the Ligue 1 title. They head to Troyes on Sunday with their lead over Marseille cut back to five points with five games remaining.
Messi’s camp has since said he did not want to stay for another season after all and had told the club as much a month ago. Paris certainly wasn’t his favourite, but could still be an acceptable back-up if Barcelona didn’t sign him.
He wants to continue playing in Europe so that he can play the Copa America next year. Barca must lose €250 million (£218 million) of their wage bill (or put that into new revenue) to register new players without La Liga restrictions. If they can’t, and therefore stay outside their allowed team spending, they’re subject to the ’40 per cent rule’, meaning if they spend £40m they must first earn back £100m.
It is a financial puzzle that is no longer Mateu Alemany’s problem. The club’s director of football left for Aston Villa this week. The hugely respected 60-year-old is the architect of the side who currently need just two points to win La Liga.
His departure seems rooted in exasperation at club president Joan Laporta who listened more to agents Jorge Mendes and Pini Zahavi than him, and a sense that La Liga is not about to loosen the ties of Barcelona’s financial straitjacket.
Sources close to Messi have suggested he is willing to play for a token salary just to be able to return his family to the place they call home. But La Liga have told Barcelona that regardless of what they pay him, in all ’40 per cent’ calculations they will still require the club to register his salary with them at the market rate of around €25m (£22m) per season .
Barcelona want to re-sign Messi two years after he burst into tears, but La LIga rules are a major hurdle they must overcome
It has been suggested that Messi himself would return to the club and receive only a token salary
Barcelona will begin their pre-season tour of the US on July 19 and want to close the deal by then due to the obvious financial benefits. The club’s reaction to Alemany’s departure this week has been to suggest that he could finish his excellent projects this summer despite the move to Villa, or that Deco (Raphinha’s agent) could take over from him. It was hard to tell which idea sounded naive.
Messi is expected to spend at least part of the next two weeks in Barcelona – not parked completely outside Camp Nou like Peter Odemwingie parked outside Loftus Road in 2013 hoping his move from West Brom to QPR would go through , but with similar expectant optimism.
Back in Paris, PSG should win Ligue 1 without him, but the city will not light up the title in Naples with a merry firecracker. A damp sparkler will be more suitable. The end of Messi’s club career in European football is starting to have a similar feel.