• Avani Sood

Lionel Messi leaves FC Barcelona

Lionel Messi is a legend and one of the best players of our generation if not the best. Lionel Messi joined FC Barcelona at a very young age, around 2001, where he signed his first contract on a napkin! He was part of the La Masia academy in 2002. That’s where it all started, he rapidly rose through the ranks and made it to the first team of FC Barcelona. He has the most appearances for the team. He scored the most goals, He has won the most wins. And, most important of all, he has won the most titles in the club's 121-year history. But it's not club records he has set. It's not just Spanish records. The player has smashed a number of European and world records, some of which few people believed could ever be beaten in the modern era. He is an integral part of the club.

So what led to the departure that broke millions of hearts around the world.

We’ve read the following statement everywhere, “Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles”, but what does this really mean?

Under La Liga rules that were introduced in 2013, there is a floating salary cap for all teams which limits player wages and acquisition costs to 70 percent of club revenues.

In order to meet that requirement after a drastic reduction in revenues due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, FC Barcelona entered this summer offseason needing to shed well over $200 million in salaries just to sign Messi. But the limited transfer activity across Europe meant that they were nowhere close to that figure, and on Aug. 5, the club and player came to the realization that the signing could not happen under the circumstances.

To come so close to losing Messi once might be regarded as unfortunate. To do so twice looks an awful lot like carelessness and us seeing a tearful Messi announcing his departure was FC Barcelona’s failure to comply with La Liga’s regulations.

Could Barcelona have prevented this?

CVC Capital Partners is a private equity and investment advisory firm with approximately US$111 billion in secured commitments. It was recently announced that La Liga has managed to secure a cash injection of 2.7 billion euros after reaching an agreement with CVC Capital Partners ensuring CVC a 10% stake in the company. This was construed by many as helping Barcelona make the financial headway it needed to virtually guarantee the Messi deal.

But interestingly, both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, two of the most heavily indebted La Liga clubs expressed their opposition to the private equity deal with CVC Capital Partners which is still slated to be voted on by La Liga’s 42 clubs.

Barcelona accused the firm of underpaying to invest in Spanish football. Joan Laporta, who was elected president of Barcelona in March, said on Friday that the club was ready to fight against the deal between La Liga and CVC. He added that the only way to keep Messi would have been to accept the deal but that this would not be in Barcelona’s best interests. He accused CVC of offering a third of the value that Barcelona ascribes to La Liga.

Observers say that accepting the deal would have amounted to the two giants financially attaching themselves to La Liga over the decades to come and thus forgoing their Super League ambitions.

Is there still a possibility that he returns? After all, la Liga did just sign a TV rights deal with U.S. broadcaster ESPN worth a $175 million per year deal over eight years ($1.4 billion). What value would La Liga have without Messi? Can they really afford to lose him? But La Liga president Javier Tebas has been steadfast in recent months that there would be no bending of the rules and no special treatment given to Messi or Barcelona. And rule changes a week before the season are highly unlikely.

Of course, the memory of the last journey down this road is sufficiently fresh, and it is still difficult to imagine Messi in any jersey other than Barcelona’s for a reason. Barcelona is more than his team; it is his home. His bond to it is not simply contractual; this is not just a business arrangement.

Paris Saint-German and Manchester City seemed to be the only clubs with the financial means and lure to sign Messi but after City’s recent signing of Jack Grealish, PSG appears to be leading the way to secure the services of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, despite late interest from Chelsea.

Writer - Dyumna Madan

Editor and Graphics - Vaishnavi Bhojane