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Have we seen the last of Lionel Messi at Barcelona?

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On Friday night, Bundesliga champions, Bayern Munich, put eight goals past an astonishingly abysmal Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals.

The match ended in a shameful 8-2 defeat for Lionel Messi’s side, and he must have counted his lucky stars that there was no second leg scheduled.

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Barcelona were mauled and battered, embarrassed and outplayed, and there was nothing they could do to prevent that. To be honest, Bayern Munich did not play the best game in their history, but it was still too easy. Definitely a lot easier than the Bavarians had imagined. 

Barcelona players were booed when they returned to the hotel, they were booed even more when they returned to the capital of Catalonia. Fans demanded an explanation, but the Blaugrana had nothing good in store for them. 

Lionel Messi’s uncertain future

Barcelona skipper, Lionel Messi, is widely hailed as the most important player the La Liga club have ever produced. He’s led them to glory, popped up with match-winning performances more times we can count.

Yet, against Bayern, he wasn’t anything more than a bystander. He was nothing more than the helpless captain who’d seen his team surrender considerable first-leg advantages to the likes of Liverpool and Roma in the previous two seasons. 

“Messi can’t do everything on his own,” his worshippers say. And now, if Marcelo Bechler’s report is to be believed, Lionel Messi, too, has bought into this philosophy and is looking for a club that would be able to match his contributions.

Bechler — who was the first to leak Neymar’s ludicrous move to Paris Saint-Germain — has claimed that the Argentine isn’t willing to wait for his contract to expire in 2021 and would like to move as soon as possible before the transfer window closes, this summer. 

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have emerged as the most obvious choice, and understandably so. Reports claim that the Manchester outfit is willing to pay an insane amount to secure the signature of the Barcelona number 10, and Lionel Messi, too, is excited to play under his favourite coach.

Guardiola’s team were subjected to embarrassment in the Champions League quarter-finals too, as they were sent packing by a high-flying Lyon side on Saturday night. 

All hands on deck at Barcelona

Financial turmoil, worst ever defeat in Europe, and their leader threatening to leave — Barcelona certainly have seen better days in the past. The glory days may be long gone, but the Camp Nou outfit must still do their best to retain the most important piece of the puzzle, to tie Lionel Messi down for good. 

As things stand, Messi is contemplating his future at the club and is yet to agree to a long-term deal. Barcelona must already be in talks with the Argentine over an extension, but the task is set to be even trickier after the Bayern Munich debacle. 

Lionel Messi has never been very fond of the current coach, Quique Setien. So, the club must find a way to relieve him of his services as soon as possible.

Also, they’d need to bring in a more than capable replacement for the task. Dutch manager, Ronald Koeman, is believed to be the frontrunner for the position. 

Reports also suggest that Lionel Messi doesn’t have any faith in president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s project and wants someone to revitalise the club’s ethos.

Messi wants players who can set the stage on fire, share his burden when needed. He wants his isolation to end, and needs a president who would make that happen.

As of yet, Bartomeu hasn’t shown any signs of walking away from his position, but he’s definitely on his last legs at the club. 

Finally, Barcelona would also have to make Lionel Messi’s contract as lucrative as possible. The 33-year-old is already the most well-compensated player at Barcelona, and the new contract must show just how much the club values him.

They must add as many zeroes as the man desires and hope he agrees to settle down for one last spell. 

Over-dependence on a player is never a great idea. However, given the state Barcelona find themselves in, giving Messi the contract of his dreams is the only logical move.

And it would be interesting to see whether the club are prepared to go the distance, pull out all the stops to make the captain stay faithful. 

Also Read: The big Barcelona rebuild: But where’s the money or the long-term vision?

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