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How Leo Messi leaving Barcelona affects the Champions League

Is this the tipping point where traditional clubs fall out of the global limelight?

Champions League final - “Barcelona v Juventus”

With the farewells said and done, it really does look like Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona for good. No, it’s not some 1000 IQ move to get La Liga to relax their salary rules. The Argentinian superstar is GONE. Reports indicate that PSG are likely to pick him up, and we’re inclined to believe them.

Now if you’re reading this, then you’re probably a Bayern Munich fan, in which case your main question is how this move will affect the Champions League. Worry not, I have the implications lined up below. Just be warned — they’re not pretty to look at.

New investor clubs finally roll over traditional European elite

The pandemic has been the playground of investment-led clubs. That’s a nice way of referring to teams like Manchester City, PSG, and Chelsea, who basically have no concern for finances because of their wealthy owners. I’d use another term, but I know that some City fans read this blog and I wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings.

Barcelona are imploding. There’s very little hope for them. Juventus are badly mismanaged. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are tightening their belts. Inter Milan is on the verge of being liquidated by its owners. These are clubs with massive history, all struggling to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, the big three just keep on spending. PSG are the most likely team to sign Messi at the end of this saga, but both Man City and Chelsea would be prime destinations for the Argentinian. Not a single traditional European elite is in for the world’s greatest player — it’s simply a question of which plastic institution has the most money. All three of these teams made the finals of the Champions League in the last two seasons — only Bayern was the odd one out. Expect that trend to continue.

Spanish league entering a dark age

La Liga 2017-18 - Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona
Spanish football will never see these two geniuses ever again.
Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Messi and Ronaldo are gone. Most clubs are riddled with debt or have financial problems. An investment fund is looking to buy 10% of the league’s TV rights for the next 50 years. And that’s supposed to be the solution for the mess they’re in.

La Liga looks like its entering a dark age at the moment. Only Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid seem to be emerging from the pandemic in any sort of shape, but both are walking wounded. Barcelona ... well, the less said the better. El Clasico, the league’s biggest attraction, has been devalued considerably. The classic rivalry has lost its luster.

The Spanish league has dominated in Europe for almost a decade now. Both the Europa League and the Champions League have mostly had Spanish winners in the last 10 years, with the English Premier League being a distant second. Bayern Munich bring up the rear as the sole representative of the German League, and other top leagues are nowhere to be found.

With La Liga’s impending decline, it looks like we’re in for an English hegemony in Europe going forward. PSG will likely compete with them through pure financial might, but Bayern will definitely struggle to bridge the financial gap between the Bundesliga and the Premier League. These first few years may not be that bad. But give it time, and the EPL will become a super league in all but name.

Whoever signs Messi becomes favorites for the title

Let’s talk about the immediate consequences of Messi’s departure. Whoever signs him will become the odds-on favorite to win the Champions League every year until he retires. This may sound a bit far-fetched, given that his presence hasn’t helped Barca win one in over five years. However, that says more about the team than it did about the player.

Leo Messi is still the greatest player in the world. In a proper setup, he will devastate all opponents. Say he goes to PSG — he’ll have the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar around him, with an actual midfield and good fullbacks to support the attack. If its Man City or Chelsea, the same remains true. All these clubs are stacked from top to bottom, and they have great coaches as well. No Koemans or Setiens holding him back — Messi will be free to express himself the way he likes.

Honestly, from a Bayern perspective, it feels like PSG may be the best destination for him. They have the weakest squad out of the three, and Pochettino is a far less decorated coach than Pep Guardiola or Thomas Tuchel. Additionally, playing against weaker teams in Ligue 1 could dull Messi’s senses a little, affecting him on the biggest stage.

Still, it’s going to be a momentous task for Bayern to win the Champions League going forward. That Barcelona team was like a weight around Messi’s neck — once unshackled, Europe will struggle to deal with him. Let’s hope that he starts declining a little bit faster, or the next few UCL seasons could get very boring.