By Ade Ojeikere
LIONEL Messi is indeed a gem on and off the pitch. Messi’s records on the field of play tower over others, with his only rival being Cristiano Ronaldo. Little wonder the statistics off the pitch after three hours of notifying FC Barcelona that he wants to move on indicating that the midfield maestro created mass agitation and unrest in furious Catalonia. Besides, he shook the Barcelona board and forced a mass resignation of the people running the club in the last six years.
Isn’t Messi great? He surely is. Otherwise, what would we say to the fact that his submission of a letter to quit created a potential unprecedented financial crises with sponsors withdrawing from Barcelona partnership.
Records don’t lie. This dictum rings so true with what Messi’s resignation threw to the world; he shook the world to trend as the number one person on Google search. He also got two million new followers on Instagram within three hours, to break the record of Hollywood superstar Jennifer Aniston.
Again, Messi became the top discussed/searched topic on Tweeter, Instagram, Facebook and Google, just as he created a global sports concern where a lot of global sports organisations raised their voice. That includes tennis, NBA, F1, Baseball, Ice hockey, American football, Cricket, Athletics and football. What a creature Messi is? Anyway, these teasers are meant to calm nerves here while the world waits in bated breath for Messi’s next move on the chessboard in the game of wits with FC Barcelona.
Yes, the battle lines have been drawn. No going back for the parties involved. It is time to go for easily the best FC Barcelona player in the club’s history. Without any doubt, Messi is fed up with the antics of the current board. He wants them out, including the new manager Koeman, whose offence rests with dropping Messi’s best friend in the team – Luis Suarez. Don’t wake me up from this storm until it subsides.
In a business concern or activity, the least that is required from either party is to fulfil the tenets of the deal struck. This presupposes that there must be extant clauses for those who default before, during or after the contract’s duration, depending on what the arrangement states. In this case, Barcelona and Messi didn’t falter, making it imperative for one of the parties to ask for an exit. Messi has done what he interprets to be right by submitting a request at a convenient time. But the question being asked is if he followed what is enshrined in the contract, and/or if he understood what he was trying to do with his action.
Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu played the political card by saying he could step aside from the job only if that would make Messi rescind his decision. No deal; as Messi read the deft move right, preferring to keep quiet, having dropped the bombshell last week. Messi’s silence forced La Liga to issue a statement stressing to remind the player that he needed to stick with the tenets of his contract, adding that: ”The contract is currently in force and features a release clause to be applied in the event that Lionel Andrés Messi should decide to activate the early unilateral termination of the contract, pursuant to Article 16 of the Royal Decree 1006/1985 of 26 June, which regulates the specific labour status of professional athletes.”
Indeed, the governing body submitted further: ”In line with the regulations and the procedure that apply in such instances, La Liga shall not proceed with the release required for the player to be deregistered from the Spanish Football Federation unless the aforementioned clause has been paid.”
The tendency to ask if La Liga isn’t a meddlesome interloper in the matter is pertinent since Messi isn’t in their employment, and that the supervising body ought to have kept mute until the issue was presented to them to arbitrate. A typical Nigerian response. Nigerians are experts in fishing for excuses rather than tackling the matter headlong for posterity sake. Not so in organised climes where governing bodies don’t have to wait until things have gone awry before setting the records straight for the avoidance of doubt.
With daggers drawn on both sides, what this indicates is that the issue would be decided at the courts unless one side decides to bury the hatchet and arrive at an amicable resolution. The court sessions would start when Messi moves to access justice from the internal mechanisms in the club if he still believes in them. It is the only way Messi can seek justice at the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS) in Lausanne. Messi needs Barca’s consent to achieve any dream of reuniting with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, which appears to be the only club with the cash to effect the transfer.
For a start, Messi is not just a player; he is easily the greatest footballer on earth. If he has to move, it has to be a record deal. In 2017, Neymar earned the world record transfer fee of 222m euro in his move to PSG from Barcelona. Even Ronaldo moved to Juventus for 100m euro. Messi cannot move for anything less. His release clause stands at an astronomical 700m euro. Is there really a release clause? Barca should show it to the world, except if it also has clauses which forbid such exposition.
Messi’s entourage believes he has fulfilled his contract since La Liga finished in August because of the Coronavirus pandemic as against the June deadline on his contract. Maybe the entourage understands it may not win the case in the court of law. That could explain why Messi has emphasised he doesn’t want litigation. He wants to leave on a peaceful note. That is hard to see because we are talking about the greatest footballer of all times.
Messi’s father told Mediaset that talks with Barcelona went “well”, except that there is still a chance that an agreement can be reached which allows everyone to remain in their current surroundings. Not with this Barca board that understands the implications of allowing Messi to leave without a cognate replacement, which would devalue the La Liga and de-market the team in the business spheres of the game. No wonder Barca’s board swallowed its pride and listed Messi among the players to preview their new jerseys, even in the heart of this controversy.
Barca need Messi as much as the latter does the former. What is instructive here is that football wins, not Messi or Barca. Restive fans can heave a sigh of relief believing that something may give way in the course of the new arrangement which may inform a change of heart from a visibly angry Messi.
Jorge issued the statement on Friday that appears to quote directly from his contract stating: ‘The release clause will not apply when the unilateral resolution of the contract comes into effect after the end of the 2019-20 season.’
The statement also slammed La Liga for wading in on the debate last week and claiming Barcelona were right to demand €700m from anyone who wanted to sign Barcelona’s captain.
‘We don’t know what contract they have analysed,’ it said. Also condemning their ‘obvious lack of impartiality’ in the matter.
But the statement from Messi’s father appears to have been the last shot fired before the white flag was raised.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge in the Messi brouhaha which leaves many with these critical questions – Barcelona has four captains and Marc-Andre ter Stegen was the favourite to join Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, and Sergi Roberto. Will Messi want to step back into the group of leaders? Will he want to wear the armband and address his team-mates having made it clear in the last two weeks that he no longer wants to be at the club?
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