By Sergi Escudero
Barcelona, Aug 26 (efe-epa).- Lionel Messi’s burofax informing Barcelona of his intention to leave represents the final chapter of a story about the institutional, economic and sporting crisis that first began for the Catalan giants back in 2015 in Berlin, the night they won the treble.
The unexpected move from the Argentine, widely regarded as one of the best players ever to grace football, is a definitive test for embattled club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
If Messi does end up walking away from the Camp Nou, the damage wrought on the Barcelona brand would linger for years down the line — the greatest player in the history of the club, and arguably of the sport as a whole, out the door without a farewell from the fans after a humiliating exit from the Champions League.
Such a move would likely see other key players — many of whom are already at odds with the club’s leadership — push to leave in his wake.
Barcelona’s decline since last winning the Champions League in 2015 seems to have become too much for the player who once said he wanted to retire at the club, his home since the age of 12 following his move from Rosario.
The reasons behind Tuesday’s burofax — not a fax in the traditional sense, but rather an urgent document sent by Spain’s postal service — are many, but top of the list has to be his all but nonexistent relationship with Bartomeu’s board and the likely imminent departure of his close friend, striker Luis Suárez, who has been told by new coach Ronald Koeman he is not needed for the coming season.
When the news erupted onto social media, Barcelona legend Carles Puyol tweeted: “Respect and admiration, Leo. All my support, friend.”
Suárez made his feelings known by replying with two applause emojis. It paints a dire picture of the growing chasm between the players and the current board.
Former Barcelona president Joan Laporta, ex-board member Emili Rousaud and possible candidate to replace Bartomeu, Víctor Font, have pointed the finger of blame directly at the current board of directors.