Football Insights – Lionel Messi
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Football Insights – Lionel Messi

With the football season still on hold, speculation around Barcelona's current financial situation and the future of Lionel Messi at the club is a hot topic in footballing circles. There is nobody better placed to give their insight's into this situation than Genting Casino Ambassador and author of “Messi: The Biography” Guillem Balague. In this exclusive interview Guillem gives his expert opinions around the future of arguable the world's greatest ever footballer and you can also watch more exclusive video below with Guillem discussing how the opportunity came about in writing the only official biography about the Argentine superstar.

Leo Messi has just over 12 x months left on his contract at Barcelona – do you expect him to re-sign with the Catalan club in spite of the infighting within the senior hierarchy that seems to be happening?

It is happening, the players and the board are miles away from each other. There has been a bit of a truce, but not before the players pointed out some of the inefficiencies of the board.

Messi had a go at Eric Abidal, the players had a go at the board for how some of the stories came out in the media whilst the players were deciding what to do with cutting wages due to coronavirus. It all goes down to the same thing, there is a lack of leadership at Barcelona right now.

The players feel that the support is weakening instead of getting stronger, and that means finances haven’t been properly used. This is a club that was calculating to have more money, but the expenses mean that most of that money goes – and mostly in wages.

All in all, it’s a situation that will be interesting to follow closely as there will be elections in 2021, which is when Messi’s contract finishes and he will have to have an agreement with all of the candidates who want him to stay.

Perhaps, he will decide to renew his contract with the agreement of all of the candidates. It’s a difficult situation because candidates will think differently about what to do with the money but I have been told that all but one of the candidates want Messi to stay at Barcelona.

I’ll have to find out who that one is and let you know, but for the moment Messi will stay at Barcelona for as long as the club is competitive.

I think it will be curious to see for instance, Victor Font, who is one of the candidates who will make Xabi Hernandez manager if he wins the election. If Xabi Hernandez comes it may just bring a new lease of life to Messi.

Last summer when Barcelona tried to convince Neymar to come to Barcelona, I think the message that came to Neymar, from Messi, was to come over Barcelona because ‘I’ll only be at Barcelona another 2-3 more years.’

This year would be the first and then two or three years more and you [Neymar] will be in charge of the club. If that’s true, it could be interesting for next season as it means it could be the second to last season for Messi, maybe finishing with Qatar.

Messi will turn 33 this summer and mark 20 years as a Barcelona player after breaking through at La Masia. Can you think of any other player globally whose personal success and achievements is so closely linked to a golden era for his club? Surely, he will go down as Barcelona’s greatest ever player, if not history’s?

Messi is definitely Barcelona’s greatest player ever and, in my eyes, he is history’s greatest ever player. I’m happy to argue that with everyone.

In terms of other players whose personal successes and achievements eras are closely linked to the golden eras of their clubs, from memory I think Alfredo Di Stéfano, who won the league for Real Madrid, I think, nine times and five Europa Cups. He came to Real Madrid at 27, a mature age but he gave a lot to Real Madrid.

Franz Beckenbauer, who won four leagues and three European cups with Bayern Munich, Paolo Maldini who won seven leagues and five European cups and Champions Leagues with AC Milan.

Perhaps I am missing one or two but those are the ones, in my eyes, you can closely relate the success back to the club. They are men who have been proven to be leaders to last a long time, looking after themselves and being very professional - making history in football.

If the contract talks were to breakdown and Messi made the decision to leave, where could you realistically see him going? Surely it would only be English clubs that could put together the sufficient financial package?

Messi will retire at Barcelona. Messi wants to use the power, perhaps the threat of the possibility of him leaving, as a way to push everyone to the limits and to try find out the best way to keep him happy, which is winning more titles but generally to have the team competitive. With that in mind, Messi is going to go nowhere else.

There was a time when he was thinking of leaving Barcelona. I know that Manchester City have always been close to his father and have said many times, remember if you want to leave, we will be here for you, we won’t ever pursue it but if you want, we are here for you.

Chelsea wanted him as well, Manchester United dreamt of it but there was no sufficient offer to make him move. Even at a time of doubt, he wants somewhere in particular, as I explain in my biography of him, he said I want to leave, look for a team for me and everyone went out to look for him.

There were two teams, one of them was Manchester City, but he eventually decided that he didn’t want to leave just before the pre-season started, and that was the end of that.

He has also dreamt of going back to Newell’s Old Boys, in Argentina and playing in the first division in Argentina, but he hasn’t done, of course as he left Argentina when he was 11.

He has three children, are you going to take them to Argentina now, when they’re comfortable in their surroundings?

The situation in Argentina now, with 40% of the country poor, an official stat from the Government, affects football as well and the direction in where football is going, there is a lot to be decided in Argentina right now and I don’t think he’s attracted to that right now.

V: 1.22.1 All rights reserved. August 2021