Revamped Barcelona start new season with spotlight on Messi
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.”
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.