Just weeks ago, it seemed that Lionel Messi’s relationship with the club was beyond repair. He wanted to leave, we know that much, and we know how much he wanted it. And while the Argentine is still very much his otherworldly self most of the time, there were some signs that his heart was maybe not in it as much.
The good news for Barca fans is that Lionel Messi is smiling again.
Not only that but the game against Juventus the other night also showed football fans around the globe, and naturally all Barca diehards, the vintage performance everyone is so used to seeing week in, week out from the Barcelona maestro nad talisman.
Although he again only scored from the spot, this being his third one for the season, it’s never really just about the goals with Messi as he was ostensibly dictating play, creating chances, taking people on and guiding Barcelona again, as he often did commandingly in the past, to a dominant 2-0 victory over the Bianconeri in their home turf.
And then came the poignant moment at the end of the game when there was a delicate rapprochement between him and new boss Ronald Koeman a the duo actually hugged, hopefully an indication signaling their relationship is improving a step at a time.
Obviously it would not be too far-fetched to attribute this détente to the resignation en-masse of Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board, as the entire football world knows that was the bone of contention in Messi’s stained relations with the club and with the immensely unpopular president gone, hopefully the bond between the club’s talisman and his home club of almost two decades would be restored. Regardless of whether he finally chooses to extend his contract beyond the end of the current campaign or depart for newer pastures like Manchester City to reunite with his former mentor and coach, Pep Guardiola.
Future scenarios and conjectures aside, Koeman himself is currently adamant his captain is motivated and hungry for more and the recent developments on and off the pitch show that they are at least on the same page. For now.
“The hug with Leo? My relationship with him has never been complicated. We have spoken clearly in the meeting we had. When he returned he has done everything to win and work to get to his best level. I just told him: ‘We have to kill off the game earlier’.” Ronald Koeman | Post-match press conference
And everyone could see how happy (relieved?) the gaffer was when Messi scored that crucial penalty.
Times have admittedly been tough at Barcelona lately, both on and off the pitch. They lost the Clásico at home and before that, lost most unexpectedly to an unfancied Getafe as well. Doubt was on the rise surrounding Koeman, the team and even the great Messi himself.
But with the two finally building a proper relationship, it’s a positive new beginning for the team with hopefully nowhere else to go but up.