Lionel Messi hates ‘little dictator’ tag and the idea he runs Barcelona, he’s missing Luis Suarez and 24-7 talk of his future is grinding him down… his focus is now on playing for Argentina while STILL being open to Nou Camp exit
- ‘I am tired of always being the problem of everything’, lamented Lionel Messi
- There was never guarantee he would be appeased by new Barcelona president
- Argentine is only marginally happier now than when pushing to leave in summer
- Messi has always hated the idea that he is running the club behind the scenes
- His future will be debated 24-7 in Spain and in essence that is the problem
In the midst of the ‘Lionel Messi: will he stay or will he go? saga’ that dominated the news for two weeks in the summer, one off-the-record comment from somebody close to the drama stood out from the rest.
When it was put to them that Messi would now stay at Barcelona for the rest of his career – because by the time the next transfer window came around a new president would be in-coming and that Messi’s real problem at the club was the out-going president Josep Bartomeu – the response that came back was unexpected: Maybe Messi is just tired of always being at the centre of every storm at one of the biggest clubs in the world. Maybe he will still want out.
The implication of the response was that: no, Messi would not be appeased by the forthcoming elections and the prospect of a new president.
Lionel Messi insisted ‘I’m tired of always being the problem for everything’ at Barcelona
The Barcelona talisman is being worn down but the constant swirling storm of attention
Messi was desperate to leave in the summer and is only marginally happier at the club now
The elections would inevitably be all about him – which candidate had the best relationship with him; what plans each candidate had for him; which candidate did Messi really back. He was tired of it. Tired of a spotlight that never shone on anyone else for too long.
He said as much when he returned to Barcelona from international duty on Wednesday as he was bombarded with questions at the airport about his so-called reign of terror at the club. Eric Olhats, former agent to Antoine Griezmann, had used those words to describe a sort of Messi dressing room dictatorship that made life impossible for Griezmann when he arrived.
‘You are either with him or against him,’ Olhats had said. ‘Messi controls everything. He is king and emperor at the same time and he did not look kindly on Antoine’s arrival.’
Former president Josep Bartomeu has gone but that has not necessarily appeased Messi
Messi’s mood had already been darkened by a 15-hour flight and tax inspectors waiting for him at the airport to ask him questions about the private plane he had arrived on. The ‘little dictator’ queries were never going to be well received.
‘I am tired of always being the problem of everything [that happens] at the club,’ he said.
Messi is arguably only marginally happier at Barcelona now than when sent the club a Burofax in the summer requesting to be able to leave. He likes and respects Ronald Koeman, president Bartomeu is gone, the team is competitive, and his family were happy in September when it was confirmed they would not have to uproot from their home and move to another country.
But the focus on his performances is more intense than ever. Images of him walking instead of running in the final stages of Barcelona’s win over Dynamo Kiev became the story at the start of the month.
There is a sense that those who have waited 15 years to criticise him but have been unable to because of his sublime season-after-season form now finally feel they have the chance as his level begins to drop naturally with the passing of time.
Aged 33 and without the player who gave him more assists than any other in his career, Luis Suarez, it is likely he will score fewer goals this season than in previous campaigns. He has scored six goals so far for Barcelona but until the last game before the international break they had all been penalties.
The forward is focusing on Argentina and shifting his attention to international football
More damaging than the focus on his form is the spotlight on his influence. He has always hated the idea that he runs the club picking the coaches and the signings. Recent comments from the last manager the club sacked Quique Setien only managed to feed that false perception of him.
In truth, if Messi had picked the signings and coaches over the years, Sergio Aguero would have played for Barca and not Manchester City, Setien would never have landed the job in the first place, and Griezmann would probably never have arrived. His influence has always been exaggerated.
The club might have been aware that certain signings were to his liking – like the acquisition of Javier Mascherano from Liverpool – but the idea that even weak boards sent fawning text messages to him asking: ‘What do you think Leo?’ are wide of the mark.
Messi has been targeted by critics citing a lack of form and his scoring is down this term
Luis Suarez’s absence after the move to Atletico Madrid has impacted Messi’s output
The solution to the current situation is two-fold. First he wants to concentrate on Argentina. Barcelona are no longer Champions League favourites and as they continue to feel the financial effects of the coronavirus more than most clubs, that is not something that is going to change any time soon.
There may well be just as much chance of Argentina winning the World Cup in 2022 as Barcelona winning another European Cup while Messi is still playing. After years of prioritising Barcelona the focus is now very much on playing for his country.
The second solution is to leave himself open to the possibility of moving at the end of the season. That comes with its own additional problem – where to go? His Barcelona situation may have its downside but would he really be better off elsewhere?
The Argentine star complained about being held up by tax inspectors after his long flight
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will not be making a move for Messi in January next year
Manchester City became an option last summer but Sportsmail understands they have no plans whatsoever to push for him in January. He came to them in the summer, not the other way around.
They reacted positively to the prospect of the world’s greatest player choosing to end his career in their colours but they did not initiate the possible switch. They will not be initiating anything in a months’s time when the window opens either.
At the end of the season that may change but so could many other things.
Until the summer Messi’s future will continue to be debated 24-7 in Spain. And that pretty much goes for everything Messi does. Which, as far as the Barcelona and Argentina captain is concerned, is exactly the problem.
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