Lionel Messi has officially left Barcelona FC after 17 years and is going to be a Paris Saint-Germain player next season.
The move comes after the Argentine initially agreed to sign a new deal with the Catalan side, just 12 months after making a scene publicly about wanting to leave after not agreeing with the direction the club was going in.
But after a season in which he seemed to find joy once again and added what would turn out to be a 35th and final trophy with the club, he was denied the chance of finishing his career in the Camp Nou by La Liga rules.
La Liga rules state that a club’s annual wage to turnover ratio can be no more than 70% but Messi’s renewal would take the club up to 115%.
The main issue isn’t that however, but yet another fallout from the Super League fiasco that took place earlier this year. The Spanish FA had been overlooking Barcelona being above their limit for years, but with Barcelona and Real Madrid refusing to agree to a deal that would see La Liga sell a portion of their equity for cash but bury the Super League forever, president Javier Tebas has decided to enforce the rules.
Many questioned why Messi wouldn’t just play for free if he wanted to stay at the club so badly, but even if he did their wage bill would be at 95% of their turnover. It made no difference, Messi can’t play for Barcelona this season while the league actually choose to enforce their rules.
So that leaves a handful of clubs that are actually able to afford him and allow him to continue his career at the highest level.
Manchester City just spent £100m on Jack Grealish from Aston Villa and gave him the number 10 shirt, but they also want Harry Kane desperately and are under investigation for FFP breaches. Manchester United are more interested in building a young squad to develop and while Messi is obviously someone you want in your team, they have a structure in place they clearly aren’t willing to break.
Chelsea were also a possible destination but they’ve just splashed £98m on Romelu Lukaku for their strike force after a £250m outlay last summer on the likes of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, meaning they made the decision to not offer 34-year-old Messi astronomical wages.
With Real Madrid obviously out of the running, Italy not a viable option because of the financial situation in their country and Bayern Munich never in the running, it left just PSG.
This is a PSG side run by the super rich Qatar Sports Investment group. They sponsor Barcelona as a club and currently can afford to pay both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe after spending a combined £360m the two superstars.
Yet they’ve still managed to agree a two-year deal with Messi where he will earn a reported £25m per-year net in wages and £20m in a signing on fee. In reality, they had zero competition for his siganture.
The deal has been labelled as ‘boring’ as Messi joins a super-rich side who already dominate their domestic scene, despite not winning the league title last year, and is already filled with other superstars. They wanted romance, like when Diego Maradona joined Napoli, for further evidence that Messi is the best ever.
But that’s not his problem. He wants to compete at the highest level for as long as he can and when you’re as good as he is, any team you could potentially join will already have several top talents in the club. Adding Messi into a group of already super talented footballer basically instantly makes them favourites.
It’s not Messi’s fault that only some clubs can afford him, because he deserves to be the highest paid player in the world. He’s the best ever and having won six Ballon d’Or’s already and on course for a seventh later this year, it’s not like he’s living off past glories either.
He will make PSG unanimous favourites for the Champions League, a trophy he and they are desperate to win and he will part of one of the most entertaining teams on the continent going forward.
The only losers here are La Liga and Barcelona, the rest of us should enjoy him for the last few years of his career when he’s finally in a team worthy of his talent. He’s no longer carrying players lucky to play with him on his back in a constant hunt for success. This is going to be fun.