Few footballers stay with a single club for the better part of their career. Most of them are looking for advancement opportunities, migrating from club to club, from lower-tier leagues to higher ones. Many of them dream of playing in the Bundesliga or the Premier League. Not Messi, though. The 34-year-old Argentine forward joined Barcelona as a youth, coming all the way from his native Rosario, and hasn’t left… until this summer, when his contract with the Catalan team silently expired.
For weeks, anyone with an internet connection capable to make an account for betting – and their dogs – were speculating on where the player would end up next. We still don’t know – all we know is that it won’t be Barcelona.
A two-decade career
It’s hard to believe that Messi was almost sidelined in his early teens by a medical condition. At the age of 10, when he was already a “seasoned” player at Newell’s Old Boys in his native Rosario, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone issue that cost a great deal to treat. The club promised to help his family pay for the $1000-a-month treatment but didn’t make good on the promise. To save his future, his family took him overseas – the Messis had relatives in Barcelona at the time. Barca’s team director Charly Rexach wanted to sign him immediately, considering his record – he was a prolific goalscorer already. Ultimately, at the end of 2000, he received a contract written on a napkin and a spot at Camp Nou, something Barca never regretted.
Messi graduated from Barcelona’s youth academy in 2003 and quickly became a part of the first team. In his two-decade career, he broke a series of records – he became the top goalscorer in the Spanish top-tier league, the player with the most hat-tricks (36) and assists (192), scoring more than 750 career goals so far.
And he won pretty much every prize, distinction, and accolade possible, for club and country.
Back to Barca? Not…
When Messi’s contract expired with Barca, there were lots of rumours circulating about where the 34-year-old player will go next. While he may be past his prime, he would’ve been a great asset for any team. Some thought that he would return to Rosario and play for Newell’s Old Boys again, others considered a new contract with Barcelona the most likely scenario. And for a while, the latter seemed to be the correct assumption: the leadership of the club announced that they are ready to sign a new agreement, with a massive pay cut and other changes. At the time, the deal was still under review by the player.
Now, in turn, it’s certain: Messi is gone. And with him, an era is ending.