(CNN Spanish) — “Last minute: Leo Messi will not continue linked to FC Barcelona”. The title, cold, dry, that appeared on the social networks of the Catalan club exactly one year ago shocked the whole world. The maximum idol of the institution, the man who had smashed all the records with the Blaugrana shirt and had harvested all the titles that came his way, would not renew his contract. Lionel Messi, the Argentine “little giant”, was beginning to form part of the culé past.
Hours before the announcement, despite the fact that everything indicated that Messi’s renewal with Barcelona would be just a formality, rumors began to emerge warning of difficulties that could hinder the negotiation. Everything, even, despite the fact that the Catalan team had recently changed authorities and the new president, Joan Laporta, had a great relationship with the footballer, since he had been in charge of the institution in the Argentine’s first years at the club .
What would come later would be the explanations of Laporta himself, who attributed the non-renewal of Messi to the economic situation of Barcelona and the regulations of the Spanish League that impose a total salary cap for each club, and the tears of the Argentine, which were marked on fire among the most moving images in the world of football in recent years.
Gone are the 778 games played by Messi with the Barcelona shirt, in which he scored 672 goals and gave 288 assists. Gone was, also, the tremendous track record that “la Pulga” reaped with the Catalan club: 10 leagues in Spain; 4 Champions League; 3 Club World Cups; 3 European Super Cups, 7 Copa del Rey and 8 Spanish Super Cups.
A year has passed since that August 5, 2021 in which the paths of Messi and Barcelona forked. The Argentine arrived at Paris Saint Germain with the dollars and the stars to once again share a team with his friend Neymar and with other figures of the stature of Mbappé, Sergio Ramos, Di María and Marquinhos.
Barça, meanwhile, faced the new season with a much questioned Ronald Koeman at the head of the squad, but he was fired in mid-October due to poor results, both in the League and in the Champions League. His successor was none other than Xavi Hernández, another of the prodigal sons of the golden generation, Lionel Messi’s partner in those glorious teams that Pep Guardiola put together.
But who fared better? Messi or Barcelona? Look at the route of each one.
Lionel Messi, the lights of Paris and a bittersweet season
After tears and farewells from “his city”, Lionel Messi wasted little time and, just five days after leaving Barcelona, his arrival at Paris Saint Germain was confirmed. The team from the French capital was forming a true “Dream Team” with a single objective: to win the Champions League for the first time.
The presence of stars of the stature of Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Ángel Di María in the squad led by Mauricio Pochettino were joined, among others, in addition to Messi, Sergio Ramos, the historic defender of Real Madrid, the Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who arrived from Milan, and the Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, from Liverpool.
Expectations were high among Parisian fans, but Lionel Messi’s level was not the best at the start of the season. The Argentine had been champion of the Copa América with the Argentine team at the beginning of July, when it was still believed that the renewal with Barcelona would be a formality. The late start of practice affected his physical condition, which caused a decline in his performance.
Although the team’s progress in the local league was satisfactory in terms of results, the performance never convinced the fans. And that was evident in the Champions League. The Parisian team finished second in their group, behind Manchester City, and the draw paired them with none other than Real Madrid in the round of 16.
The series against those who would be champions of the tournament was perhaps the highest point in terms of performance for Mauricio Pochettino’s team, although Lionel Messi was far from his level. A 1-0 win at home led PSG to seek qualification at the Santiago Bernabéu. There, Mbappé’s goal in the first half put the Parisians in the quarterfinals, but a burst by Karim Benzema (he scored three goals between minutes 61 and 78) buried the illusions of those from the French capital and the Argentine, who was looking to lift the trophy seven years after his last conquest.
What came for Messi and company were harsh criticism from PSG fans, which not even the title in Ligue 1 could placate.
In total, the Argentine played 33 games in the 21/22 season with PSG, scoring 11 goals, providing 14 assists and winning a title.
For the new season, the club replaced Mauricio Pochettino and hired coach Christophe Gaultier, with the intention of turning the team’s game around. The start could not have been better: PSG thrashed Nantes 4-0 in the final of the French Super Cup, Messi scored the team’s first goal and showed a hopeful level, just over 100 days before the start of what, surely, It will be his last World Cup.
The Barcelona, in search of the reconstruction
If Lionel Messi’s season was far from its best moments, Barcelona’s was much worse. The Argentine’s departure was joined by a team with a very poor performance, defeats that quickly took him away from the top places in the Spanish League and even elimination in the first round of the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.
Before the end of the first phase of the Champions League, the club fired coach Ronald Koeman and hired none other than Xavi Hernández, prodigal son of the culé youth academy and member of the golden generation. But with a squad with few figures, the champion could do little in the 2010 World Cup with the Spanish team.
As if that were not enough for the Catalan fans, the team could not even advance too far in the Europa League, the second major tournament in Europe, where they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Eintracht Franfurt from Germany, who beat them 3-2. at the Camp Nou, which provoked the anger of the fans.
Finally, Xavi managed to give the team a certain shape and, by the end of the season, he achieved good results that finally reached him to finish second in the League and qualify for the Champions League, although he was very far from the champion Real Madrid, 13 points behind. .
For the new season, the club is looking to rebuild and, for that, it gave one of the blows in the transfer market: it signed the Polish striker Robert Lewandowsky, from Bayern Munich. In addition, the winger Rapinha, from Leeds; central defenders Jules Koundé and Andreas Christenses; and midfielder Franck Kessié. The objective, of course, is to recover the brilliance of previous years.
The truth is that, one year after the “divorce”, Lionel Messi and Barcelona lived a year that was far from their best times, although everything seems to indicate that in the season that begins both will seek to regain their shine and become competitive again international level, with the Champions League (for both) and the World Cup in Qatar (for Messi) as main objectives.