For more than a decade, Lionel Messi and Barcelona have been inseparable. Despite various big money offers from clubs like Manchester City, Real Madrid, Chelsea and others, Messi never left the club which pulled him out of his growth hormone-deficiency misery.
But recent reports from Spanish outlets have indicated that Messi is unhappy at his parent club and will not renew his contract with the Blaugranas, which ends in June, 2021.
Barcelona have been in tatters in the past few months on and off the field, with their financial crisis having bottlenecked the club's transfer strategy. On the field, Messi has held the team together doing absolutely everything. He has been the club's most pivotal and necessary player for over a decade now and whatever happened, Messi always stayed.
So, what happened this time around? Why did Messi suddenly halt talks about his contract?
The rift with the board
The players, especially Messi have been at literal war with the current hierarchy of the club for some months now. The players had been frustrated with the then manager Ernesto Valverde right from the start of the 2019-20 season. This ended in Valverde's sacking in January and was the start of everything.
Current Barcelona director and former player Eric Abidal then accused the players of being the reason behind Valverde's failure saying, "Many players weren't satisfied or working hard and there was also an internal communication problem."
Messi, the shy, quiet good boy of football, then uncharacteristically lashed out at Abidal on Instagram saying that when someone accused the players of something, they had to provide the names. He also added that the players always took responsibility for their deeds and the director of sports needed to make their own decisions too.
The next feud came when the whole world was hit by Covid-19 and football was no different. Reports came out of the Catalan club that the players were unwilling to take a pay-cut.
But Messi soon responded again on his Instagram saying that the players will be taking a 70% pay-cut and also they will be putting in donations so that the others can collect their full salary. The Barcelona skipper further added that they were surprised as they were put under the magnifying glass as they were always ready to help and they did not speak until that moment because the players were more focused on finding a solution.
Players were also not happy with Quique Setien and his assistant Eder Sarabia. Many players deemed Sarabia's behaviour to be disrespectful, leading to Sarabia apologising to the players. Setien has seen failure more than success in his short span as the boss and this has left players frustrated. And Messi even more, as the mercurial Argentine is counting his years at 33.
The latest problem arrived when the board sold midfielder Arthur Melo to Juventus in a swap deal which saw Miralem Pjanic arrive at Camp Nou. The senior players believe that this shows the lack of sporting insight the current board under Josep Maria Bartomeu has and this has led to Messi halting contract talks.
Messi has even had a meeting with Barcelona Presidential candidate Victor Font to discuss his plans for the club which suggests that Messi is unlikely to stay at the club if Bartomeu does.
Even though Bartomeu has said that Messi will finish his career at the club, it seems likely that it will only happen if Bartomeu's reign at the club ends in 2021.
Is it a matter of money?
Absolutely not. Messi is by far the highest-paid footballer on planet earth as he earns 131 million Euros per year, according to Transfermarkt. His wage is still undisclosed by Barcelona but reports have suggested that it might be around 40 million Euros a year.
So, it is unlikely that Messi's goal is to improve on his salary. Rather it looks like the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is tired of the board throwing tantrums and so decided to throw one himself.
So, it is still unlikely that Messi will leave Barcelona. But as Barcelona has gone into war between the board and the players, Messi has finally struck back at the board by halting his contract. And if Barcelona fail to deal with it properly, it might just turn out to be the killer blow for the club.