No se queda. That’s official.
First Marca and then RAC1 followed up with reports that Argentina superstar Lionel Messi has told Barcelona that he will not be signing a new deal with the team.
Then Barcelona released a statement saying that a deal was agreed but could not be signed due to the economic rules of La Liga.
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Let’s try and break down exactly what’s happening, what it means for Messi and Barcelona, and where we go from here.

SO WHAT’S HAPPENED

As we mentioned above. Lionel Messi is no longer a Barcelona player. Just let that sink in.
Technically he wasn’t a Barcelona player anyway. Messi, as you may remember, has been a free agent since July 1 when Barcelona were forced to let his contract expire due to huge financial issues. The club has since been trying to work out how they can afford to register their new signings, sign Messi and stay afloat fiscally speaking.
The reports say that Messi has not been impressed by the make-up of the squad ahead of the new season, with the failure to sign compatriot Cristian Romero a key point.
But Barca dispute that saying they were able to come together on a deal, but were blocked by the league’s rules. Whether you believe the reports or the club is up to you.

WHERE DOES MESSI GO NOW?

As a free agent Messi is free to sign for whomever he likes (and command an astronomical wage packet and signing-on fee in the process) but realistically there are only a few clubs who make sense.
In England, Manchester City certainly have the financial muscle as well as the presence of his old boss Pep Guardiola. City are the best team in England and one of the favourites for the Champions League. Furthermore their squad (particularly if Jack Grealish and Harry Kane arrive) is such that he will not be required to do everything as he has had to do in the past couple of seasons with Barcelona.

guardiola_messi

Image credit: Eurosport

The other prominent option is of course PSG. Another state-funded club with more money than god. The reason to join PSG is pretty simple. Theoretically Ligue 1 will be easier than the Premier League (even if PSG lost the league to Lille last season) so there will be more scope for Messi to rest and target the Champions League. On top of that he will get to play with close friends Neymar and Angel Di Maria as well as rising superstar Kylian Mbappe.
Other than that? You know Florentino Perez would love to lure Messi to Real Madrid but that doesn’t seem very likely. MLS or the Middle East could afford his wages but whilst the former seems destined in his career trajectory it doesn’t seem likely yet. The same goes for an emotional homecoming to Newell’s Old Boys.
Realistically Messi is still one of the best players in the world, if not the best. He should be playing for one of Europe’s top teams. But the only two who could really afford him as City and PSG.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR BARCA?

Well from a purely financial perspective Messi not coming back is great for the club. It means they’ll have the freedom to stop the panicked fire-sale that was going to happen and should mean they won’t have to take massive losses on players they overpaid for.
As Eurosport Spain’s Fermin Delacalle says “it is a relief for Barcelona, because they would lower the team's salary mass a lot.
“Only with his departure would the situation be resolved. But for him to stay, Umtiti, Pjanic and Griezmann or Coutinho or Dembéle would have had to leave.”
However from every other perspective this is a disaster. Not only are they losing possibly the greatest player ever whilst still in his prime but they are entirely to blame. The mis-managing of the club has put them in a position where Messi doesn’t feel the on-field product is good enough for him to stay and the financial management means they can’t afford him even if he wanted to. Which is born out in Barca’s statement.
The legacy of this will ultimately lie with Josep Maria Bartomeu, who will go down as one of the worst presidents in Barcelona’s history. But there is far more than just one person who is culpable for this shoddy mess.
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