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Frank Gilfeather: Lionel made a bit of a Messi of his departure from Barcelona

Lionel Messi got emotional during his final press conference at Barcelona (Photo: AP/Joan Monfort)
Lionel Messi got emotional during his final press conference at Barcelona (Photo: AP/Joan Monfort)

The eye-watering sums of money involved in football at the highest level exposes why the people who run the sport seldom occupy our world and have little idea of life’s priorities.

For instance, did Lionel make a right Messi of his departure from Barcelona? Instead of shedding crocodile tears at having to leave the club he’d been at since he was a 13-year-old, the world’s top footballer missed an opportunity.

Barca revealed they could no longer afford his salary of £59 million a year, which seemingly proved hard to accept for an athlete already worth around £300m, give or take a million or two. It also underlined how badly run the club was by people prepared to jeopardise its existence.

Messi seems to have forgotten that the Catalonian club paid for the costly treatment he needed as a youngster

Barcelona’s wage bill represented 95% of its income; bonkers economics and a win-at-all-costs approach by the men in their boardroom. But Messi seems to have forgotten that the Catalonian club paid for the costly treatment he needed as a youngster to help him overcome his growth hormone deficiency, setting him on the path of a stellar career and the untold riches it brought.

So, despite having helped Barcelona to countless trophies and titles, it might have been a piece of inspired thinking had he told them: “Let me help you out of your financial trouble; I’ll play this season free of charge.”

Will Messi’s reputation be tarnished?

Can you imagine what Barca’s fans would have made of that? There would have been calls for his beatification. Sponsors, who fork out millions of euros every year to have him endorse their products, would have rushed to extend their association with him. And, of course, a value could never have been put on the outpouring of affection from the supporters for the footballer and his largesse.

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Messi in action for Barcelona (Photo: Shutterstock)

Now, Lionel Messi, the son of a factory worker and a cleaner from Rosaria, central Argentina, has found a new paymaster – Paris Saint-Germain – with a £25m signing-on fee and £25m a year for the next 24 months.

Will it have tarnished his reputation among those who cheered him on at the Nou Camp and whose support over the years helped pay his salary there? Or will they simply appreciate how tough it would be, even for a man worth hundreds of millions of pounds, to turn his back on a deal worth £75m?

As Messi wept at his farewell press conference, he may have thought about how Barcelona’s financial intervention halted his growth deficiency all those years ago. It did not, however, stunt the growth of his bank balance.


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This article originally appeared on the Evening Express website. For more information, read about our new combined website.