Barcelona boardroom chaos highlights how the club is wasting Messi’s final peak years

Another round of boardroom upheaval at Barcelona has put into focus how the club is failing to maximize the final years of Lionel Messi’s prime.

It says a lot about the current situation at Barcelona that Lionel Messi, who usually says so little, has felt the need to make his voice heard. No longer is the Argentine a passive observer. In fact, Messi has become the driving force behind the resistance urging Josep Maria Bartomeu to leave his position as club’s president.

Messi might not have expressly called for the resignation of the under-fire Camp Nou chief, but the anger in his comments against Bartomeu has been clear. A civil war has been brewing at Barca for some time and now a full-blown conflict has broken out with Messi positioning himself against the club’s current hierarchy.

“Since January, it has been problem after problem,” Messi explained in an interview back in February. “What we need is calm, to be able to think about football.” This was in light of accusations that Barcelona had employed an agency to create online accounts to defend Bartomeu and criticise players including Messi.

Since then six Barca directors have resigned in protest of Bartomeu’s leadership, with the president’s handling of pay cuts imposed on players just another thing that has added to the tension around the club. “It does not cease to surprise us that from within the club there were those who tried to put is under a magnifying glass and tried to add pressure to do something that we always knew we would do,” Messi vented at the Barcelona board.

Calls for Bartomeu to bring forward club elections otherwise expected to take place next year continue to grow, particularly after Emili Rousaud’s lifting into a vice-presidential role at the start of the year, raising suspicions that the current president is seeking to maintain an influence on the boardroom through proxy even after he is gone.

Even in these times of a global pandemic a special sort of chaos has engulfed the Camp Nou.

All the while Barcelona continue to drift. This is a team in need of a generational transition, a club that has desperately lacked any sort of overarching strategy or guidance in the transfer market — look at the ill-advised signings of the last few years for proof.

There is no genuine vision for the future of the club and certainly no plan for life after Messi.

At 32, the Argentine is into the twilight of his career. Not only must Barcelona come up with a succession plan to mitigate any drop off following the exit, whenever that happens, of their greatest ever player, they must strengthen their system to get the best out of his final years at the top.

Messi is no longer the perpetual blur of motion and energy he once was. Of course, there is still nobody better at dribbling at opponents, controlling the ball at the sort of pace most other players struggle to sprint at, but such sights are punctuated by increasingly longer spells of recovery. It’s not uncommon for Messi to spend more of a match with his hands on his hips than with the ball at his feet.

By now Barcelona should have a system in place that allows Messi to age gracefully, a system that ensures his energy is directed where it is needed most. Instead, he is frequently required to dig Barcelona out of a hole. It’s a wholly unsustainable pattern and has surely been a factor in pushing Messi to the edge.

A change is still possible. Victor Font has emerged as the man to topple Bartomeu as president with club legends like Xavi Hernandez, seen as a future Barcelona head coach, publicly backing the candidate. Font’s to-do list should he win the election, whenever it is eventually called, will be a long one, but making sure Messi’s final years aren’t wasted must somewhere near the top.

Next: 5 underrated performances from Lionel Messi’s Barcelona career

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