Lionel Messi’s future at Spanish giants Barcelona became the subject of widespread speculation on Monday when Spanish media reported that the Argentine international has decided to take a step away from renewing his contract with the Blaugrana.
News that came as a huge surprise sparked a fierce debate but also raise a serious question of whether the 29-year-old is really ready to quit Barcelona.
Messi is not the same player – the same man if you want to put it that way – he was only a year or two ago.
As the integral part of world’s most lethal trio – MSN – Lionel Messi helped his club to the La Liga title with 26 goals in 33 appearances in what has been a frustrating season for the Argentine wizard.
During the 2015-16 season, the 29-year-old forward struggled with the total number of seven injuries which kept him out of Barcelona’s 17 games. Kidney problems led to a surgery in February 2016, while several muscle injuries hampered his year much to his personal disappointment.
The Argentine wizard struggled with legal problems as well.
Messi’s tax fraud trial concluded in July with Barcelona super star receiving a 21-month suspended sentence for tax evasion as Lionel and his father Jose were found guilty of evading paying more than €4 owed in back payments on image rights.
Barcelona forward claimed he knew nothing about his financial affairs, and I am prone to believing him, much like the vast majority of the football community who stood in support of the Argentina international.
Despite being given a free-pass to his prison sentence, Lionel Messi was evidently frustrated with everything that has been going on off the pitch.
The suspended sentence is believed to have prompted Messi’s decision not to extend his contract with Barcelona as Messi keeps exploring his option. It is only fair to imagine that Argentine wizard ended up feeling unwanted and treated unfairly by the Spanish authorities.
Messi’s tax evasion ruling came only nine days after the Copa America Centenario, when Messi endured a fair share of criticism after Argentina’s third major final defeat in last three years, and was taken as another huge blow to his ongoing troubles.
Reacting on an impulse after missing a penalty in his nation’s defeat to Chile, Messi decided to retire from international duty. His decision has fortunately been quickly rescinded and Messi is once again with Argentina, doing his best to help the team reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Argentina are languishing in sixth place in CONMEBOL standings after the comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Brazil and ahead of the clash with Colombia this Wednesday.
Messi is well aware his team faces a crucial challenge as La Albiceleste are looking at the 1/2 betting odds to claim important three points against Los Cafeteros.
In a bid to change his fortunes and rise stronger from controversies surrounding him in 2016, Messi reached out for a fresh look thus choosing the least extravagant of options presented in front of him.
Having revised his decision to hang up the Argentinean boots, Messi bleached his hair and grew a beard, which – along with his new ink – made him look quite different to the humble image he helped create over the past couple of years.
Having admitted to feeling like everything around him was falling, Messi wanted to start fresh and escape the growing frustration that has started to have an impact on him. After all, although we all tend to patch him with unearthly attributes, Messi is only human after all.
Always under the spotlight and tight scrutiny, Messi is constantly expected to play and act under the highest of standards. Never allowed to show weakness, Messi decided to hide behind his blonde hair and ginger beard, but the entire mess around Messi appeared to be pushing strong to the surface, ultimately resulting in these fresh contract rumours.
We might all be taken aback by them, but a change of looks might not be enough for the 29-year-old.
Therefore a reported rejection of contract extension and a view towards a possible 2018 transfer to Manchester City where his friends Guardiola, Sorriano and Begiristain are waiting with their arms wide open don’t seem that unbelievable and implausible after all.
Manchester City are mentioned as the only possible destination for Messi, should Argentine star decide to leave once his current deal expires.
As a player who came to Barcelona at the age of 13, Messi would need a couple of familiar faces to ease the transition from La Liga to Premier League and Guardiola’s Citizens do have the biggest edge over any other possible suitors.
If you had asked me the question from the title 12 months ago I would have given the resounding NO answer to the slightest idea of Messi possibly leaving Barcelona.
Today – I believe we can all agree – no one can know for sure.