It was a summer of much discontent at Barcelona. The club sold Neymar to Paris St Germain despite insisting that the Brazilian star would stay. They announced, twice, that Lionel Messi had signed a new contract, when in fact he hadn’t and they failed to sign at least five high-profile transfer targets including Liverpool’s Coutinho and Paris St Germain’s Angel Di Maria. However, they are currently top of La Liga and are looking as good as ever. If the Catalan club wish to remain at the pinnacle of the modern game then, despite this excellent start to the 2017/18 season, they are going to have to recruit some new players and of course hope that a certain Mr Messi signs that new deal.
Lionel Messi by Save the dream ( CC BY 2.0)
Not many teams can lose a player of Neymar’s quality without even batting an eyelid yet Barcelona are an exceptional club with, arguably, more talent than any other side in world football but recent times have not been without strain. Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has been under increasing pressure to resign after the mess that was the summer just gone but the team have continued to perform remarkably well considering the lack of signings and football betting markets have them at odds of 2/7 to win the title again. They still forked out nearly €193 million on new talent but their net spend was minus €33 million, even with the massive deals that saw Brazilian Paulinho and Frenchman Ousmane Dembele join for €40 million from Guangzhou Evergrande and €105 million from Borussia Dortmund respectively.
The main aim for those pulling the strings at the club is to bring in some much-needed midfield and defensive depth with summer targets of Philippe Coutinho and Inigo Martinez both to remain on the Barca hit list in January. But perhaps the biggest deals of them all could be to make sure both club captain Andrés Iniesta and star player Lionel Messi sign new deals.
Both players are icons for their club and county and their signatures transcend mere club self-interest. They are both part of the heart and soul of the modern Barcelona football story and to millions worldwide they are Barcelona. For the club to allow either or even both to sign elsewhere for free would severely damage the Barca global brand and even portray to some of their big rivals that the great club are in a weak position.
Josep Maria Bartomeu by Press Cambrabcn (CC BY-SA 2.0)
When you consider that Messi is the all-time La Liga top goal scorer with more than 360 goals and 28 hat-tricks, it is easy to see how hard his departure could hit the club. Now no one is yet suggesting that Messi leaving is likely but the fact that he has yet to formally announce the signing of a new deal could be quite telling in itself. It is likely that he is biding his time to see what business the club do in January before he commits himself, which will put more pressure on Bartomeu to make sure he get some deals done in a window that is notoriously hard to do business in. The Barcelona faithful will be hoping that a deal with their icon and idol is done soon and for Bartomeu, you know that his future at the club pretty much depends on it. For now, at least, Messi is enjoying his football with the club and is yet again the top scorer in La Liga and for Barcelona fans worldwide they will be hoping long may it continue.