It still feels strange to see Lionel Messi wearing anything other than a Barcelona shirt.
It felt like the world had just assumed that the Argentinean superstar would play in Catalonia for his whole career and sign-off on his beautiful story in front of his adoring Camp Nou fans.
Sadly, the footballing romantics weren’t responsible for the script and, after Barca ventured into rocky financial waters, Messi was forced to leave the club in 2021.
With the club drowning in mountains of debt, they were unable to re-register their talismanic forward as uber rich PSG swooped in to give Messi a new place to call home.
It was a crushing blow for the Catalans as their fans quickly turned on anyone they could aim their ire at.
Stars were booed relentlessly and executives inundated with some less than savoury social media hate.
The performances on the field suffered as well and Ronald Koeman was eventually sacked as the club lurched from one dreadful result to the next.
However, it wasn’t just on field matters where the club suffered.
In losing Messi, they lost one of the biggest commercial assets in the game as well.
Not only was Messi just an absolute joy to watch, he was a globally recognised tourist attraction as people from around the world flooded to Barcelona to see him play.
So just how much of a hole would his departure have left in the clubs finances? Well, if a Twitter thread from early 2021 is to be believed, a monstrous one.
After signing yet another bumper contract, Twitter account @ManagingBarca broke down the levels of revenue Messi alone had generated for the club in the four years previous.
It begins: “Since there have been a lot of accusations about Messi’s wages and how his ‘138 million euros’ wage bill is the primary reason for Barca’s heavy financial debt, here’s a look at how much revenue Messi generates for FC Barcelona.”
It then looks out how Messi sells two million jerseys each year, his contribution to ticket sales, media rights and sponsorships, his transfer value and social media income.
Fascinating stuff – that final figure of €1.2 billion is just astronomical.
For a club already riddled with debt, Messi’s departure was nothing short of catastrophic.
He has since struggled at PSG, scoring just one Ligue 1 goal during his time at the club.
However, this Messi we are talking about and you can be sure that he will be back to something resembling his best in no time at all.
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