Re­vamped Barcelona start new sea­son with spot­light on Messi

Arab News - - Sport News - AFP Madrid

Lionel Messi will be there when Barcelona start their sea­son on Sun­day, just as he has been for the last two decades.

His ev­ery move, how­ever, will be scru­ti­nized like never be­fore.

Af­ter all, never be­fore had Messi told the club that he wanted to leave, and never be­fore had Messi been forced to stay.

Will Messi still give his best? Will he still be mo­ti­vated? Will the trans­fer saga af­fect him?

Some of those ques­tions may start be­ing an­swered on Sun­day when Barcelona open their Span­ish league sea­son against Vil­lar­real at the Camp Nou. It will be the club’s league de­but af­ter the first two matches were post­poned be­cause of their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Cham­pi­ons League late last sea­son. The team’s last of­fi­cial match was the em­bar­rass­ing 8-2 loss to Bay­ern Mu­nich in the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter­fi­nals in Au­gust, one of the worst de­feats in the club’s his­tory and in Messi’s ca­reer. The re­sult thrust Barcelona into one of their worst crises ever, and led Messi to make public his de­sire to leave.

The Ar­gentina great even­tu­ally back­tracked af­ter Barcelona de­nied his re­quest to leave for free. He said he didn’t want to get into a le­gal dis­pute with the “club of his life.” But Messi made it more than clear

that he would have rather left, and openly crit­i­cized club pres­i­dent Josep Bartomeu for not keep­ing his prom­ise to let him go.

Still, Messi said he would give his best de­spite hav­ing wanted to

leave, and there were no signs of any let­down in the prepa­ra­tion matches in which he played ahead of what should be his fi­nal sea­son with the club.

“For a mo­ment I thought he

wouldn’t stay with us,” Barcelona team­mate Sergi Roberto said. “He’s our cap­tain, the best player this club has ever had and the best player in the his­tory of soccer. I couldn’t imag­ine Barça with­out

Leo. It’s nor­mal that he may have wanted a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence, but he has given it all for this club through­out the years. He has been mo­ti­vated since he came to the first team. He is very pro­fes­sional.”

Files/AFP

Ar­gentina great Lionel Messi has said he would give his best de­spite hav­ing wanted to leave Barcelona, who play their first league game against Vil­lareal.

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