Barcelona without Lionel Messi: fears and frustrations of the Camp Nou fans

'This is the weakest moment for the club in the last 30 years and I’m not optimistic about the future'

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Lionel Messi's departure from Barcelona after 21 years has stunned the world of football. While Paris Saint-Germain are delighted at signing the best player in the world, Barcelona fans will have to come to terms with losing their talisman.

We spoke to four season ticket holders at Camp Nou to hear their views of the Argentine's departure.

Michael Turner

Gol north second tier season ticket holder since 1992.

It’s sad about how Messi is going and the way he went. He’s been the purest example of the Barca model ever and we’re losing him without ever saying goodbye. That’s a tragedy, but it feels like even the most talented player in history couldn’t stop it. It says more about the way club football is right now.

Since 2010 we’ve had the same presidential group in charge. They tried to turn the club into a marketing machine. The signings from overseas, from outside the cantera, are designed to sell shirts and not to make the model stronger.

They couldn’t keep Pep Guardiola, the architect of how Barca played, with Messi the product and star. The model has been dismantled. We won the 2011 Champions League with a homegrown side. Now look at the side which will play Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Messi says farewell to Barca

Off the pitch, they’ve taken small steps towards Barca being just another company. That happened when they allowed advertising on the shirt. More excuses will come. The excuse will be that they’re in debt and can’t compete with oligarchs or state-backed clubs. But they did compete and for a long time. But if you get into so much debt they’ll say ‘why don’t we sell off some of the club?’ and become just another company. There would be massive resistance to this from a historic and proud club. Barca are supposed to be a members' club, not a club run for profit.

Those in charge didn’t understand how or why we won. The way we played made us win. If you don’t know that you can’t reproduce it. It has been an elegant decline since Guardiola. I blame them because it was avoidable - all the work to produce the Messis had been done by Johan Cruyff and Guardiola.

I don’t have any negative feelings towards Messi. The money involved is not for ordinary people to compute. Messi could probably have earned more money if he’d left five years ago. I don’t have a great deal of time for his agent father’s style, but he’s been a club man and a moneymaker, not a loss maker for Barcelona. Messi’s a simple guy, a romantic footballer, a man who sees a ball and wants to kick it.

Barcelona season ticket holder Michael Turner. Courtesy Andy Mitten

This is the weakest moment for the club in the last 30 years and I’m not optimistic about the future. I don’t think we have the right technical team and the Ronald Koeman approach has not produced the type of football the socios will be comfortable with. We’re already signing players who will limit the opportunities of others. I don’t know if Riqui Puig (a talented young prospect) is a good player because he’s had too few minutes to judge.

It only takes one good manager to change things though. Guardiola did this in 2008 when Barca had gone three years winning nothing. Is there anyone there now who can do that?

Joan Laporta was the only presidential candidate who understood what made us win so he was the only suitable candidate for this year in the elections, but how do you go back to a style that has been dismantled? Back to Guardiola? There are thousands of good players but only a handful of good managers. And there’s only one Messi.

I’ll cherish memories of him playing and I’ll also be there on Sunday night (in the first game of the season) because it’s my club.

Marc Rosell Ricart

Four season tickets in the family since 1952 at Les Corts

I’m a Barca supporter, not a Messi supporter. I was there when we were winning nothing – despite having great players. It’s a pity he’s going but Barcelona should have sold him two or three years ago and got a lot of money. What would have changed? We already crashed out of the Champions League, even with Messi. The team had finished then.

If I had been Messi, I would have stayed. I don’t think he wanted to go this year. His family were very happy here. He could have become an icon for his actions and not just his football if he’d stayed on the minimum salary for a couple of years – starting last year. People said he couldn’t decrease his salary by more than 50 per cent but that rule is only for players outside La Liga. Barcelona’s wages for the all the players have been a scandal. So much money has been wasted. Messi’s wages became a problem. Maybe he was worth it on one level, but other players used his wages to get more themselves.

Messi’s the best Barca player that I’ve ever seen and the best player in the world. I’ve seen Diego Maradona and Ronaldinho here. Messi’s been incredibly consistent for 15 years, averaging 48 goals per season for 13 years. It will be difficult to replace this, but we will see Barca play as a team again – not ten players playing for one. And Messi is 34.

Koeman was criticised for not playing 4-3-3 last season, but how can you play 4-3-3 with Messi and Sergio Busquets when they can’t run like they did? I think we’ll see Barca more like the Guardiola side. We have Frenkie de Jong, Ronald Araujo, Pedri, Ansu Fati and youngsters coming from the second team. I’m happy about Memphis Depay signing, too. And we have Antoine Griezmann, who can shine more without Messi. He’s one of the best players in the world and he can now prove that.

Barca existed before Messi and we’ll exist after. We enjoyed Messi a lot but it’s time for the next stage. Our club has serious financial problems and maybe they’ll take a few years to get over, but the fans were here before and we’ll be here after. And Barca is more than a football club, I believe that.

Barcelona season ticket holder Marc Rosell Ricart. Courtesy Andy Mitten

Roberto Garcia

Season ticket holder, main stand, first tier.

It was tragic to see that press conference. A man, the best in the history of the game, totally broken emotionally. It was an incredible ending. We couldn’t see him say goodbye in a full stadium and that’s sad.

In football, the leaders of organisations blame others. The loyalty to the club towards its players and not being ruthless put Barca in this position. They allowed players to wind their careers down: Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique will be the same, Busquets too. That’s hundreds of millions of euros talent going off the balance sheet. The club has paid the price for loyalty to the players and in allowing the wage bill to get to the level it did. You can’t blame a player for that, he’ll always try and negotiate his best deal.

I don’t blame Messi. He was there since age 13 and the key man in bringing 30 trophies to the club. From those trophies Barca brought sponsors and made vast amounts of revenue.

Messi in his Barca pomp

Having said all of that, it’s the ideal result for Laporta. The public perception is that he fought to the death to keep Messi. The convenient scapegoat is La Liga. But he knew the parting had to come.

What could he do? Keep going back to players to ask for more cuts to accommodate one player? It ended up being very complex and 12 months ago was probably the time for him to say goodbye. Barca would have got a transfer fee.

My family have four season tickets. I would have paid four times what I did pay to see Messi because it was like watching football entertainment at its absolute highest level, week after week, year after year. How did he do it so consistently and keep so motivated? It’ll be a while before we see him again.

Barca have some outstanding youngsters to lay new foundations. The club need the right management, the right directors of football who can handle a rebuild involving young players. I remember Marc Overmars, ex Barca, overseeing the rebuilding and philosophy of Ajax. Someone like him understands that role. Jordi Cruyff should in theory know how to do that.

Rich Wissen

Attends 20 home games per season.

It hurts that he’s gone, he’s the best player, but Barca are a billion in debt and La Liga is insistent on financial fair play to help all clubs. So it was probably the right thing to do. Barca also became too reliant on Messi, like the Bulls with Michael Jordan. He became too dominant in the team, to the detriment of the other talented players whose job was to get him the ball.

He felt he deserved to be paid a lot and he did lift up Barcelona, his statistics were unbelievable. But maybe he’s been greedy too. Barcelona are in this position because of player wages. They started getting rid of their biggest wages last year with players like Luis Suarez. They need to lose even more, players like Pique or Busquets. It’s so bad they needed to lose Messi.

Remember the movie Lost in Translation where the fading American star goes to Japan to earn a lucrative commercial deal? Most of Messi’s income comes from sponsorship. He could have done more if he wanted more. His image could have stayed intact at FC Barcelona, but I felt Barca and Messi worked out an exit strategy which kept the supporters loving Messi and not too upset with the club president for being the one who had to say goodbye. The president has probably saved Barca from bankruptcy and still has a lot of work to do, so La Liga was an excellent bogeyman to blame - where they could say he couldn’t stay even if he played for free.

At some point Barca had to say goodbye to Messi. He also has a bigger chance to win the Champions League with PSG, but I like it when a legend stays at one club.

Updated: August 15, 2021, 9:00 AM