The seemingly never ending saga of “Will Messi or won't Messi leave?” has just gotten a fresh wave of fuel to keep burning.
We care because, of course, this is Lionel Messi for crying out loud. If he goes to another team, it will be a shock to the global soccer landscape.
Just as much as we care, however, we hate all of this gossip because it inevitably ends up being the grown up, multi-million dollar equivalent of "he said, she said." Except, maybe in this instance, it's "he said, this other guy said, and then a bunch of other guys said it again."
What’s that? Messi followed Chelsea on Instagram? Fabregas is on Chelsea! Messi and Fabragas are friends! Messi is really going to go to Chelsea!!! Except, the thing is, Messi is most definitely not going to Chelsea.
For all of our contempt for these ridiculous rumors, however, we cannot deny that a part of us wants to believe them every time. We say to ourselves one moment, “No, he’s obviously not going to leave Barcelona, his home," and the next we find ourselves saying, “But he did just follow Chelsea on Instagram!” We are human and passionate about soccer, and we can’t help but react this way.
Now it seems such passions as our own are being exploited for political gain. Barcelona presidential candidate Agusti Benedito has come out in an interview with Goal.com and said that Barcelona are more likely than not thinking about selling Messi. And not for the first time, either.
Speaking about FC Barcelona's management team, Benedito said, "[At times,] it has seemed like they are really not concerned with keeping Messi happy. Some of their decisions, their quotes and their actions make me believe they were contemplating other possibilities."
Indeed, in 2013, Barcelona economic vice-president Javier Faus upset Messi by saying there was “no need” to give the club's all-time top goal scorer a new contract.
Benedito responds to this by saying, "I don't think [Faus’ comment] was merely clumsiness. No, that was an indication of his real thinking.”
He goes on to say that Barcelona’s board is not to be trusted. Current President and head of the board Josep Maria Bartomeu has said he wishes Messi to stay at the Nou Camp, but “[the board] have shown in the recent past that their public quotes don't always correspond with their ideas. Sometimes they say things and then their actions go in the opposite direction. I hope in Messi's case that their words and their actions correspond."
"Messi has had really big offers from teams in different countries," Benedito added, "but I believe he genuinely wishes to end his career at Barcelona...It's reasonable to think that Messi is waiting to see who the next Barcelona president and the new board will be. I don't think anybody would dare sell Messi now.”
Elections are due to take place at the end of the season, and Benedito goes on to say that he doesn’t think Barcelona will make any move before then related to Messi's future with the club. After all, selling the best playing in the world is not exactly a great platform to run a campaign on.
No matter what you think of his comments, this interview is a saavy move on Benedito's part. By drawing attention to the fact that Barcelona’s current board seriously considered selling Messi, and may do so again, Benedito aims to weaken the incumbent's campaign for the Barcelona presidency, and consequently to strengthen his.
All things considered, Benedito’s words do nothing to dissuade those that believe Messi will leave Barcelona. Once elections are done, the political ramifications of his exit are reduced ten-fold. There are clubs that would be willing to foot the bill, as goliath-sized a foot as that may be, in order to sign Messi. Soccer is a business and, in that pragmatic world, there is no telling when Messi can suddenly become an appreciated asset that - as deep as his history with the club may run - may be worth divesting in order to line even deeper pockets.