For many people who know Messi but don’t watch the game very much, until August 5th, local time in Barcelona, they faced the slightly joking question of “Why didn’t Spain send Messi?” With a blank look.
Lionel Messi, one of the greatest athletes in football history, this summer, in the most dramatic way, announced his departure from the 21-year Spanish giants FC Barcelona.
In the professional sports industry, one of the biggest management challenges is the development and transformation of athletes at the end of their careers. Especially when the issue involves the club’s totem-style athletes, the emotional bonds of these team legends and the realistic choices of the club’s management often produce huge contradictions.
The tears of the “old and nowhere” club fathers and their separate backs often make people sigh. In the face of professional sports’s ultimate pursuit of competitive performance and commercial interests, how long can tenderness and warmth survive?
On July 10, 2021, after the Argentine team won the America’s Cup, the team members threw captain Messi to celebrate
Messi, who burst into tears at the press conference, might not have expected the farewell to come so suddenly. On August 8, the football superstar, who has already settled in Spain, admitted that he “has been here all my life, and I am not ready to leave.”
Messi had no choice but to say goodbye to Barcelona, the direct reason was the club’s poor financial situation. Affected by successive years of unwise signings and failed salary management, Barcelona Football Club has been heavily indebted in recent years. In order to regulate the operation of the club and avoid unsustainable blind investment and the generation of malignant debts, La Liga previously established a set of financial management measures based on specific calculation rules.
The cold wind and rain of professional sports full of realism, even if it is a treasure of today’s football, it is not immune.
The Barcelona club, which has a debt of 1.3 billion euros, will not be able to pass the financial management regulations of La Liga in the new season if it does not significantly reduce its financial expenditures.
Looking back, the Barcelona management headed by Josep Bartomeu has repeatedly spent a lot of money in the transfer market, but with little effect. Catalan giants, with a sky-high price of more than 100 million euros, have successively introduced Osman Dembele, Coutinho, and Anthony Griezmann, but some of these expensive signings are unacceptable, and some are wounded by injuries. Contribution to the team is limited.
Moreover, in addition to the huge transfer fee, the salary of the new aids is also a huge expense. The lack of clarity of the club’s operating strategy is evident.
The core issues beyond the debt crisis are management disputes and factional conflicts. In recent years, the changes in Barcelona’s management have been accompanied by intense personnel turbulence and changes in business strategies. In particular, there is a sharp contradiction between Bartomeu, the former chairman who has just stepped down, and Laporta, who has taken the helm again after many years. The issue of Messi’s contract renewal happened to be the most recent change of power at the club’s top level.
Under the background of the dispute between the two factions, the club is naturally unable to plan ahead. In order to leave Messi’s contract extension, it has reserved policy and financial maneuvering leeway in advance. What makes the fans most angry is that the Barcelona management has always released the public opinion signal that “Messi’s contract renewal has no major problems”, and the motive behind it is really hard to guess.
It is embarrassing that in the end, it is Barcelona’s own children who have to pay for the club’s turbulent and failed decisions. Messi has joined the Barcelona La Masia youth academy since he was 13 years old. Since then, he has only played for one club in Barcelona for more than 20 years.
It can be said that Messi contributed all the golden periods of his career to Barcelona. Messi has a deep passion for the club, and at the critical time of this renewal negotiation, he has even agreed to sign a new contract with a salary cut of up to 50%.
Messi wearing a Barcelona jersey
Most sports clubs need to take precautions against the aging of their core players.
So far, the Argentine superstar still can’t stay behind. The cold wind and rain of professional sports full of realism, even if it is a treasure of today’s football, it is not immune.
It is undeniable that Messi, who is 34 years old, is already an older player in professional football and a real veteran. However, due to his extraordinary football talent and self-disciplined life management, in the past two seasons, although the “Plutoball King” has occasionally been attacked by injuries, his competitive state has remained at a very high level.
Messi, who had just led Argentina to win the Copa America, was emotionally unable to accept the fact that he left during the transfer event. But the new owner Paris Saint-Germain still retains the greatest degree of decency for Messi on the economic and athletic level.
But for many other athletes, the dilemma in the late career is much more severe. Ordinary main players or role players may have a lighter burden when they turn around and leave, but for those ministers who have played for the club for many years, it is not so easy to keep a decent career in the later years.
Decent retirement becomes a luxury?
If the veterans of the club want to end the old team and retire gracefully, the first challenge they face is the renewal and contract issues. Professional players in their later years, as they grow older, their physical functions will inevitably decline, and some veterans will also suffer from injuries. Therefore, most sports clubs need to take precautions against the aging of their core players.
The practice of many teams is to reduce the salary of the core players in the team after they reach the middle and late stages of their careers, and to shorten the length of the new contract as much as possible.
Such an approach seems to be quite cruel to the players, but from the perspective of professional sports operations, it has its inherent reason: the salary limit for veterans is mainly to optimize the salary structure and prevent the old players from occupying too much salary space. This will hinder the introduction of new young cores in the next step, or increase the salary of new stars in the team.
It is also based on the same reason to reduce the number of renewal contracts provided to veterans as much as possible-AC Milan and Real Madrid have both implemented the renewal policy of “veterans over 30 years old contract once a year”.
The problem is that such a “professional operation” may be acceptable to the average veteran players, but for those team spirit level players who have made great contributions to the team for many years, it is very difficult to reduce salaries and provide short contracts. May cause conflicts.
Andrea Pirlo, the team’s core midfielder who laid the cornerstone of AC Milan’s dynasty, left the team angrily in the middle and late stages of his career because of the club’s significant salary cut and contract extension. The veteran who performed well at Juventus in the future said frankly that he left Milan because of the club’s attitude on the issue of contract renewal that made him sad.
Another representative star is Steven Gerrard, who was born in Liverpool and grew up in the Liverpool youth training system. Gerrard has played for Liverpool Football Club for nearly 20 years, but when the England legend renewed his contract in 2015, he also faced the pressure of a salary cut and the club’s delay in giving a clear statement.
In the end, the Englishman chose to travel across the oceans to play in the United States at the end of his career, and admitted in an interview that if the club had offered to renew the contract earlier instead of procrastinating, he would sign the renewal without hesitation.
Sergio Ramos, Messi’s new teammate in Paris, is the latest victim of Real Madrid’s exchange plan. Zeng Gui was the captain of Real Madrid and played for the team for 16 years. It is precisely because of the club’s repeated difficulties on the contract that he was finally forced to leave Real Madrid to find a way out.
In addition to contract issues, another core challenge faced by stars in the middle and late stages of their careers is the decline in their tactical status. For the stock veterans of many clubs, this is a difficulty that is more difficult to face than shrinking income.
With the decline in physical athletic ability and the invasion of injuries, the veteran players who have been the core of tactics for a long time can hardly avoid the need to start the transformation of tactical roles at a certain time in the late career.
The Italian star Totti, known as the “Prince of Rome”, suffered from an absolute core to a long-term bench in the later years of his career. Totti is a Roman youth academy product of Zheng Miaohong, who has only been loyal to a club in Rome in his career. During his 24 years in Rome, Totti served as the captain of the team for a long time and became the spiritual leader of the club.
But in the countdown to his career, Totti suffered a strong reform from the Italian marshal Spalletti. Spalletti, the resolute and resolute coach at the time, believed that Totti was too old to meet his tactical needs, so he set out to exchange blood for the team and put younger players in the position, and then often refrigerated Totti.
In the last two seasons of Totti’s career, due to the discord between the generals and the strong competition from the club’s new head forward Dzeko, the “Prince of Rome” had few chances to play. The club totem once became a cold bench spectator, staring at the green field with unwilling eyes again and again from the bench. This situation has made countless Roma fans sigh.
The reasons why the aforementioned “midfield artist” Pirlo left Milan are also quite similar. At that time, Milan’s coach Allegri clearly told Pirlo that if he chooses to stay, he can no longer assume the position of his familiar midfielder, but can only play in the left midfield.
On August 8, 2021, many Barcelona fans are waiting for Messi’s farewell conference outside the stadium
The club totem once became a cold bench spectator, staring at the green field with unwilling eyes again and again in the bitter bench.
In the last season before the Liverpool soul Gerrard left the team, the then head coach Brendan Rogers also discussed his future tactical status with him. When Gerrard learned that he would be a role player in the future, rather than a regular main force, the dissatisfied iron man decided to change the environment to give play to the residual heat.
It can be said that no matter how big a “wrist” was in the club when he was young, at the end of his career, it is inevitable to make a position for the younger generation and sacrifice for the new coach who promotes reform. But nothing is absolute, not all players are so precarious at the end of their careers.
Good end is dwindling
In the basketball world, there are many legendary veterans who enjoy their careers in their twilight years and have undergone a smooth transition. The legendary insider of the NBA Miami Heat, Judonis Haslem, facilitated the renewal of his contract with the team on August 16 this year. And this is already his 19th season for the team.
About six seasons ago, the veteran had completely bid farewell to the main identity and became a substitute player. In recent years, his playing times have been even rarer. It can be said that if you simply consider the competitive state, Haslem has been difficult to contribute to the team on the court. However, the management of the Heat highly value the veteran’s ability to “pass, help, and lead” and the role of ballast in the locker room, and he has renewed his contract with the veteran to this day.
In football, Gary Neville, an outstanding representative of Manchester United’s “92 Golden Generation”, and Liverpool legendary defender Jamie Carragher, are also representatives of a smoother transition in his career.
Athletes, especially legendary players who have played for a team for a long time, whether the transition and transformation of their late careers are smooth depends on the players’ own adjustment ability and emotional intelligence, and to a large extent the team’s investors and management’s attitude. Whether the value beyond the competitive level is cherished and respected.
However, in today’s highly commercialized professional sports field, the warm and humane air has become thinner, and the “professional operation” of business is becoming popular. The famous “old people who have nowhere to rely” cannot tell.