Lionel Messi to resume training on Monday for…
Back to training
So what happens now?
Well, in the short-term, Messi will have his coronavirus test – most likely on Saturday – and then, after the players have had their day off on Sunday, he’ll return to Barcelona training on Monday. And no doubt have an awkward greeting with Ronald Koeman!
Will Koeman keep Messi as captain? Of course, he’ll still be ‘captain’ in terms of being a senior player and the talisman, but I’m not sure if he’ll have the armband after being on strike for the past week.
Barcelona have a couple of friendlies lined up, but he’s unlikely to be ready for those after missing training. But we could see him back in Barca colours for their first La Liga fixture against Villarreal. Due to their involvement in the Champions League, that has been pushed back and takes place in three weeks’ time.
But his future in the longer term remains unclear.
Could Messi extend his Barcelona contract?
Contractually, he can leave on a free transfer next summer and talk to other clubs in January.
Could Barcelona win him round to extending his contract before then? He’s not going to be won round by Koeman. And he’s certainly not going to be won round by the current president Josep Maria Bartomeu – he made that clear in his interview.
But there are a few options which could see him stay beyond next summer.
The Barcelona presidential elections are in March and Victor Font is the favourite at the moment. He says the first thing he’ll do is sack Koeman and bring in Xavi as the head coach. Xavi is big mates with Messi.
Messi also mentions in this interview which has been released that the club has no project and he wants to see some of the best lads from the academy coming through and given the chance, rather than spending money on these average players, which the club have been doing in recent years. Font has said that he will work with Messi to do that.
So, if Font comes in and Xavi comes with him, Messi might decide he’s happy to stay.
The other thing is, I think it’s been quite a sobering experience for him. The point he made in that interview was about how his family were upset, his kids were crying and didn’t want to change schools.
Come next summer, when he’ll be 34 in June – another year older, another year wiser – maybe he’ll think, ‘my family made it pretty clear last time they didn’t want me to leave’. So will he feel differently when he has the chance to leave for nothing? He might almost talk himself round to staying.
There is also the question mark around Joan Laporta. He was president of Barcelona when they reached their pinnacle. There are only three presidential candidates right now, with Font as the favourite, but everyone thinks Laporta is hovering around in the background, ready to chuck his hat in the ring.
If he stands then he’s got a good chance of winning – and his ticket would be to bring Pep Guardiola back. Guardiola is out of contract at Manchester City at the end of next season. So that could be another reason why Messi might stay: because he’ll get his reunion with Pep without having to go anywhere.
Financially, Barcelona need money. They’ve got other players they’re happy to let go and big wages they’re happy to get off the wage bill – the untouchables, the sacred cows, as they call them. The Albas, the Busquests, the Piques. They’re all on the market and all available if the right offer comes in. They’ve still got Philippe Coutinho, too, who is back training. There will be a fire sale over the next month to get money in, to get wages off the wage bill. But they decided they could not afford to let Messi go.
The fans are no longer gathering outside the stadium or protesting at the club’s headquarters. Things have gone back to normal, for now. But Messi’s long-term future is far from certain.