“I play as an attacking midfielder, I like to receive the ball and distribute it to the wingers and open the game up or sometimes take on the defenders and score myself,” is how Lionel Andres Messi, a young kid, described himself in 2000. 21 years later, here we are with an everlasting legacy.
8th August, an uneven date for a football fan, is not the start of a new era at FC Barcelona despite looking like it could be but it was the curtain to one legacy. Lionel Messi finally suited up in purple came out hot and immediately went cold, the tears started to roll elsewhere, the fans around the world went numb. Messi fumbled, arguably for the first time in a long time, he choked on his words, the emotions clear as day.
Barcelona hadn’t allowed another ‘remontada’, they hadn’t lost a game that they were in with an easy lead, they just lost the gem that they were heralded for – Lionel Messi. It wasn’t a league match, it wasn’t a derby, it wasn’t a title but it was a legacy, it was the end of the dreams that made Barcelona the modern supergiant they are now.
‘Mes Que un club,’ more than a club, whichever side of the country you are in, Messi was the face of La Masia, the face of the club, the face of the league. When he walked out in a sombre purple suit, the scene was set in contrast. Messi wanted to flash a smile, as he has done time and again in his career, whenever the situation was daunting but he couldn’t and his teammates knew that well before him.
The fans, who had cherished his sight wanted to smile as well but they couldn’t, they choked more than the losses at the hands of Liverpool or Roma. There’s an unbelievable rage that is building inside them, not against the club but against the league. The sanest of minds turned from optimists to a dreary level of messi-ism.
And it was all at the same time, the emotions combined and strung a tune that could only leave one suppressed.
Messi was heralded as the best athlete by many, some even hailed him as the Greatest of All Time but in fact, he was just another 34-year-old athlete doing his business. What made him special? Not the skills, not the temperament but the attitude, the one that made him a role model for several – Messi was level-headed, determined and focused – all at once.
His records might speak for his talent but his teammates would rather talk for his attitude, he was viewed as this superstar by the entire world but at the end of the day, Messi viewed himself as another footballer, another player who spread the words of mesmerism. Magic was used time and again to describe him and it has never been used lightly as everything around his talent was enchantment, or witchcraft, whichever side of the end you are on.
When he walked up the stage, all he could do was cry, not just because it was over but more importantly because it all had happened. His magic wasn’t just restricted to Camp Nou, it spread like wildfire to several corners of the undiscovered planet. Messi left a legacy that wasn’t just restricted to records, he left a legacy that made it even more special than words, he left a show that had 99,000 plus people hooked, standing on their timbered legs with the stands shaking.
For a man who has achieved it all, well at least nearly, at the club level, uttering a few words of good-bye wouldn’t have been that hard? It was never about the achievement, it was about the bond, not between the club and the player but the bond between the club and the city. Barcelona might still exist, and rightfully should exist, as a footballing club and a city but the magic would never stay on, it has now withered away. In thin air.
Having been diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD), there was not a chance in hell that Messi continued playing and became the superstar that he is known for. But in heaven, there was a strong opportunity, taking that path, FC Barcelona came in as an angel for the left-footed superstar, who moved on the promise of a paper napkin.
In the day and age where paper contracts are hard to believe let alone enough to place your entire career on, Messi moved continents, on December 14, 2000, on a napkin. In an age where loyalty is often superseded by money, the left-footed Argentinian stayed with the club, through the thick and thin.
Leo Messi’s journey started from a contract on a napkin paper and it ended with his tears in a napkin paper 💔 pic.twitter.com/jOXSWGV3kr
— Mo (@MouadZwed) August 8, 2021
Even when he wanted to leave, in 2020, where he rightfully could have had he taken the club to the court, he refused to. It wasn’t an economical decision and it would never be an economical decision for Messi, the club, the city and his family – the fans – were more than any words. They say a picture could say a thousand words, Messi’s picture clicked on the day personifies that rather brilliantly.
Such can be the power of fate that you stay when you want to move and you move when you want to stay. For Messi, his entire career was a tale of fate’s most beautiful depiction – one from Rosario to Barcelona and now – from Barcelona to ? With his left-footed being sought out by several clubs, several millionaires who rule the world, Messi could be anywhere and yet be everywhere. His charm, his attitude and more importantly, his humility is what differentiated him from being yet another football star to becoming an ídolo.
However, when Messi started to talk, the entire world stopped literally. It was his world literally, his words never were heard more, his actions never more powerful and his tears, never more brutal. Argentina, Barcelona, Messi in that order, had suddenly changed. No one in their right mind would even want that for their enemies. A man of very few words had suddenly changed the landscape of the entire club, the entire city into his living world.
21 years, 35 titles, six Ballon d’Ors and 672 goals later, the couple had to break up but now it was tougher, there weren’t just two parties involved, there were several million away from it. Messi and Barcelona were not just made for each other, they were made for the football world, they were made for the very essence to suggest that the game is more than just a scoreline, it is more than just the words, it has a long-lasting feeling to it.
And now, we had just heard his final words at the club, it wasn’t a dream, there was no chance that you would wake up and have it any other way. Every word shook the world, every tear made it a sorrowful place. There was no way you would cry over it, there was no chance that you could ever recover, that’s the reality of the sport, that’s the world that we are living in.
“I’ve still not come to terms with the reality of leaving this club now and changing my life. We need to accept it and move forward. The time when I made my debut, that was my dream come true and everything that came later was amazing. I will always remember that moment where everything started.” – Lionel “Leo” Andrés Messi, said as he confirmed his exit from FC Barcelona.