Is messi going back to barcelona ? Barcelona was Lionel Messi’s preferred option from all the offers he had on the table and Barcelona senior sources were desperate to get him back. But like every team that wanted to sign Messi — and any transfer Barcelona have wanted to do over the past two summers — it was not that simple.
“I had offers from another European team, but I didn’t even consider it because my idea in Europe was only to return to Barcelona,” Messi said in an interview with Sport and Mundo Deportivo. “After winning the World Cup and not being able to join Barcelona, it was time to go to MLS and live football from another perspective, enjoying more my daily life. Obviously, I’ll have the same responsibility on my job and desire to win everything and doing things right. But being more calm.”
Last week, Barcelona sources, who were granted anonymity as they did not have permission to discuss this transfer, indicated it would be very difficult to complete a deal for Messi. Barcelona could not, as it stood, offer Messi guarantees that he would be registered with the club.
This has been an ongoing issue for Barcelona. La Liga has rules around salary caps. If a team goes over their allotted amount — which is based on financial performance in recent seasons — they are unable to register a player and therefore unable to use them in the league. It does not matter if they are able to pay them or not.
This was the issue when Messi left Barcelona in 2021. He had agreed a new contract but because of the salary cap rule they were unable to register him — and therefore he had to leave. He ended up joining Paris Saint-Germain.
It did not end with Messi’s exit. Last summer, Barcelona signed Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde. Lewandowski, Kessie, Christensen and Raphinha were only registered in the days before the season began after Barcelona activated a series of ‘economic levers’. Kounde was registered just before the window closed.
La Liga has recently approved Barcelona’s viability plan for next season but with some conditions. They are still above their salary limit. In order to keep reducing the limit, La Liga will only allow Barcelona to spend 40 per cent of any money they raise through sales and loans on new signings. For example, if they sell a player who reduces their salary bill by €100million, they would be able to register a player with a €40m salary.
The viability plan being approved means they can now register new contracts for Gavi, Ronald Araujo, Sergi Roberto and Marcos Alonso. It also means they can confirm the arrival of defender Inigo Martinez from Athletic Bilbao.
Barcelona, therefore, had to find further capacity to sign Messi. And they had very little time to do so.
Messi had already verbally agreed with the club that he would have a salary of approximately €25m (£21m) a year. This means they would have needed to free up around £70m in salaries to register him.
That’s a lot for Barcelona to do at speed and Messi clearly wanted to make a swift decision about his future. Barcelona would have struggled to close big sales like that in the near future, as head coach Xavi has not even spoken to the players he’d like to leave. Ferran Torres, Franck Kessie and Ansu Fati could be among those players.
After returning from their friendly in Japan, Xavi essentially told the players he would see them on July 10 when pre-season begins. While conversations are still expected to happen sooner rather than later, they were not soon enough to influence Messi’s decision.
The only way Barcelona would have been able to complete a deal for Messi is if he had decided to wait for them. This would have given them the time to sell the players they need to. Xavi essentially said this in recent interviews when he pointed out that Messi had “99 per cent of the power”. This did not impress people close to Messi, who thought it added pressure to a situation the player was growing tired over.
There was serious risk involved in waiting for Messi. His last experience of dealing with Barcelona served as a severe warning and reduced his trust levels with the club. The trauma from that would leave him with little confidence they would be able to do that.
Just two years ago, Barcelona only told him at the last minute he would have to leave as they could not register him. In a mirror-image of those events, a crucial meeting between Laporta and Jorge Messi took place just before Barcelona landed in Japan for Tuesday’s friendly against Vissel Kobe.
Lionel Messi back to Barcelona on loan?! A bad idea for everyone involved
In February 2012, Thierry Henry scored his final goal for Arsenal. It was an appropriately romantic thing, the Frenchman heading home in the 90th minute to snatch a 2-1 win against Sunderland. Henry at that time was contracted to the New York Red Bulls, but made an emotional return to north London for a Premier League swansong. It mattered little that the club’s all-time top goalscorer only added two more to his total.
Arsenal didn’t really need Henry, and neither did he really need to go back to Arsenal. Indeed, he would have perhaps been better off going somewhere else to rack up more than 98 minutes during the MLS offseason. But buzz among supporters made it rather heart-warming.
And now, Lionel Messi supposedly has the opportunity to follow a similar path. With Inter Miami mathematically eliminated from the MLS playoffs, Messi will have almost four months between competitive club matches to kill. As such, the Argentine has been linked with a sensational return to Barcelona on loan in the January window. You can almost hear the roar of the Olympic Stadium – Barca’s temporary home – when the inevitable goal goes in.
Aside from the obvious barriers here — namely Barca’s massive financial issues that will effectively prevent them from winter spending — the glorious Messi return wouldn’t necessarily be something to be celebrated. All parties have bigger issues, ones that make a feel-good story not only wildly impractical, but also outright foolish.
Headache for Miami
The immediate issue is that this would be a massive problem for Inter Miami. Tata Martino’s side were never really likely to make the playoffs — Messi or otherwise. The Herons were 12 points out of post-season contention when Messi joined, and had, by some distance, the worst record in MLS.
Despite not having played a football match in two months (and arguably hadn’t taken one seriously since the World Cup final), things changed almost immediately when the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner arrived. Messi strolled his way to 11 goals and eight assists in his first 11 games, sealing a Leagues Cup triumph in the process. But once MLS got back up and running, the Argentine slowed down
Part of that was due to an injury picked up while representing Argentina during the September international break. Messi tweaked his hamstring against Ecuador on September 7, reigniting a recurring issue that has plagued him for some time now. As a result, he missed five of Inter Miami’s next six matches — a stretch in which his team collected five out of a possible 18 points.
A Messi-less Inter Miami is a infinitely poorer team than when he is in it. Even if they make some moves this off-season — both Luis Suarez and Luka Modric have been linked — they are a far weaker side without their talisman.
In short, they simply cannot risk him picking up another injury ahead of the 2024 campaign, and Messi is better off resting up for a few months, especially since his summer break was cut short by his move across the Atlantic. Sending him back to Europe, regardless of the destination, is not in Miami’s best on-field interests.
Messi the businessman
Messi admitted in an interview before he made his MLS move that he had originally wanted a return to Barcelona. He claimed that the club had told him for months that they would be able to hash out a deal — only to see it fall through at the last minute due to financial issues.
Messi even made a point of saying he “wanted to make my own decision” and walk away from a potential Barca move before a repeat of his farcical registration failure and ultimate forced departure in 2021. This is a player, then, who has moved on — even if he didn’t want to.
Part of Messi’s decision to move to the United States was for him to expand his career opportunities beyond football. At 36, Messi has become part-businessman, part-athlete. His MLS contract is reportedly connected to the sales of Apple TV subscriptions, and he will be buoyed by other sponsors. Crucially, he has also nailed down equity in Inter Miami as a club. It is not the same as the franchise rights that David Beckham was famously handed by the LA Galaxy in 2007, but it’s close.
And although Beckham was handed a Parisian holiday for the final days of his career, Messi is now playing in a higher-profile and higher-quality version of MLS. He is now the face of a club that is garnering global attention; there is no need for him to re-open the European chapter of his career.
There is perhaps room for an appearance in Gerard Pique’s online sensation Kings League, or even a Barca Legends fixture at some point. But for now, while Messi is still playing football, his obligation is to MLS and Inter Miami.
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