There is only one crisis in Catalunya now. While the political situation in the region remains tense after the declaration of independence from Spain, FC Barcelona’s problems appear to be in the past. And Lionel Messi’s new contract has rounded off what has been a great second half of 2017 for the Blaugrana.
There was doom and gloom when Barca missed out on La Liga to Real Madrid last season and saw their Champions League hopes ended with a second successive quarter-final exit as Luis Enrique left the club.
Messi hat-trick 13/2 v Valencia
And that was only the start. In a turbulent transfer window, Barca not only failed to bring in top target Marco Verratti, but also lost Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain in a move that shocked the football world.
Then came the Supercopa series against Madrid in August and a 5-1 aggregate defeat made Gerard Pique admit: “For the first time in my time here, they are superior.” And after the 2-0 loss at the Santiago Bernabeu, a bombshell: Messi’s signature was still missing from the contract agreement Barca had announced amid much fanfare in July.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu, who survived a censure motion (or vote of no confidence) brought forward by former candidate Agusti Benedito in September, tried to reassure fans that everything was in order and said the official photo would be taken as soon as the opportunity arose.
Weeks went by, however, and there was still no news. And despite the constant claims from the Blaugrana that the deal was done, supporters were worried that Messi could walk away for free in 2018 (when his previous agreement was due to expire) and start negotiations with interested clubs in January.
On the pitch, meanwhile, Ernesto Valverde has set about building a Barca team very much in his image, with Messi at the forefront. Somewhat against the odds, the Catalan club lead La Liga handsomely after 12 matches, having won 11 matches and drawn the other, and top their group in the Champions League.
Not only are they unbeaten, but Barca have conceded only five times all season – the same amount they had let in over two games against Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa. And Messi has led from the front, with 16 goals from 19 games and 12 from 12 in La Liga.
The Argentine picked up the Golden Shoe award on Friday for finishing as Europe’s leading goalscorer in 2016-17, with no questions about his contract allowed by the event organisers.
But on Saturday, Barca confirmed (again) that it is all agreed and, this time, signed as well. “FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi signed on Saturday morning a new contract that will keep the Argentine superstar at the club through the 2020-21 season,” the Blaugrana said in a statement.
His release clause rises to a whopping €700 million, meaning he is now set to see out the rest of his career at Camp Nou after winning 30 trophies and scoring 523 goals in his 14 seasons. Bartomeu wrote on Twitter: “We are in luck with the Barca players. We continue to enjoy the best player in the history of football.”