Jordan and the Bulls. Maradona and Napoli. Pelé and Santos. Messi and Barcelona. Even the most beautiful love stories have an ending. The one for Jordan and the Bulls lasted 13 seasons and they had six beautiful rings. That of Diego and the Italian club was shorter, but very fruitful: seven years and five titles. Santos and Pelé were together for 18 years and filled their house with 25 titles. Messi and Barcelona parted ways after 21 years and 35 championships.
And what happened next? Were there Bulls without Jordan? Was there Napoli without Maradona? Were there Saints without Pelé? Will there be Barcelona without Messi? Yes, there were. And yes, there is Barcelona without Messi. The question is whether it can continue to shine without its biggest, most phosphorescent and talented star. The Bulls have not won an NBA title again after Jordan’s departure. Napoli keeps the only two scudettos that he conquered with Maradona. It took Santos 28 years to win the Brasileirao again after Pelé.
Barcelona will debut on Tuesday, September 14 against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. The Spanish team has been wanting to pull the Orejona’s ears for six seasons. The highest European trophy eludes him. Their last Champions League title was in 2014-15 when they beat Juventus 3-1 in the final. Now without Messi, does Koeman’s team have less pressure and more chances to win?
If we are guided by what happened, not so long ago, with Real Madrid after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, the prediction is not very positive. With CR7, the merengue team won the Champions League in 2014, and achieved the three-time championship in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In all those titles, Cristiano was a figure. After leaving the club, there were no more Orejonas for Real Madrid. There were not even endings. In 2019 he said goodbye in the second round, in 2020 too, and last year he reached the semis where he was eliminated by the champion Chelsea.
Will the same happen to Barcelona? Or will Messi’s departure have a positive effect and the Catalans will go further without having the pressure to win with La Pulga in the team? The Barcelona group is not easy: it starts against Bayern Munich and will also have Benfica from Portugal and Dinamo Kiev from Ukraine.
And will the players who arrived in Barcelona after Messi’s departure be able to help in the conquest of the Champions League? There are many questions and few answers, yet. Sergio Agüero, Memphis Depay, Luuk de Jong, will they take Leo’s place? And Ansu Fati will be able to with the Ten in the back? And is Piqué still the same Piqué? And Jordi Alba without Messi is not like Batman without Robin?
Depay is the most positive point so far. He arrived with a high level and with a goal. In La Liga he played the three games that Barcelona played as a starter and scored a goal in the last two. One was an excellent left-foot for the draw against Athletic Bilbao and the other was a beautiful goal for the 2-1 victory against Getafe. He also showed his great present with the Netherlands where he signed a hat-trick and gave an assist in the 6-1 win against Turkey in the Playoffs. Another positive point is Ansu Fati who inherited Messi’s 10 and could have a leading role in the starting eleven. Secondly, the negative is the injury of Piqué, who is not yet available to play, and the departure of Griezmann, who already wears the Atlético de Madrid shirt.
Barcelona will also be its own rival and will have to see how it faces the most important competition in Europe without Messi. It will be a problem for the players and the coach. He will also have another difficult and well-known rival: Messi himself at PSG. At the moment in the group stage they will not cross, but they could see each other in the final stage.
When Messi arrived at PSG, he stressed that one of the reasons he landed in Paris is to win the Champions League again. Neither he nor Barcelona have kissed the Orejona since that final in 2015 in Berlin. The final match of 2022 will be played in Saint Petersburg. It will be necessary to see if Barcelona without Messi arrives without problems… and if Messi without Barcelona achieves the same.