It was one of the darkest periods in FC Barcelona’s recent history.
When Lionel Messi gave notice, via an official burofax, that he wanted to leave the club, it signalled a huge changing of the guard at the club.
He has since had the opportunity to clarify why he had taken such a decision, and it won’t sit well with many of the clubs supporters.
The fact that he was particularly scathing about president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, will have irked as much of the fan base as it will have delighted.Though he is, clearly, the best player Barcelona have ever had in their ranks, he is just that. A player.
If there’s one thing that the more conservative Barca supporter dislikes, it is such shows of disrespect and bravado. No one is bigger than the club and all that.
By the time you read this article, Messi will have begun training with his team-mates again, though he’ll not be able to work out with Luis Suarez, because Ronald Koeman has sent the Uruguayan and Arturo Vidal to train alone in a separate part of the Ciutat Esportiva.
The dynamic between the new coach and his captain will set the tone for the season ahead, which Messi has already said that he will give his fullest attention to.
That, at least, should give Koeman hope of a decent campaign, even if their own relationship will perhaps never be anything more than businesslike.
The biggest question is where does Josep Maria Bartomeu go from here.
Messi was highly critical of the board when suggesting that they don’t have any specific project and they just plug holes as they go along.
Though he didn’t name Bartomeu, the inference was clear, and given that the president said he would resign if his No.10 came out and said that he was the problem, we shall see what transpires there with interest.
In terms of whether there will be any winners from the Messi situation, you’d have to say that Barca as an institution will be.
Even if the first-team were to struggle at the business end, a team with Messi in it is infinitely better than one without. And Messi is still a draw for sponsors etc.
If he’s minded to, the Argentinian will drag his team-mates kicking and screaming into the latter stages of the various competitions available.
By staying until the end of the season, by which time the presidential elections will have been concluded, there’s an option of Xavi being the new coach and that could help persuade Messi to stay for the final years of his career.