The worst kept secret in world football has been confirmed this week as Lionel Messi has agreed to sign a new contract at Barcelona. The 34-year-old has verbally agreed to sign a 5-year extension that will see his weekly wage reduced by 50% and will keep him at the club until the age of 39. Such a long deal for an already aging forward will mean that Messi ends his time in football as a ‘one club' player, but is that what he really wanted?
Does Messi really want to stay at Barcelona?
Last season Messi handed in a transfer request and was told he would be able to leave the club on a free transfer, only for the Barcelona president to block the move and state that anyone who wanted the Argentine international would have to pay his minimum release fee of €700m. Messi went on to show his frustration by stating that,
“I'm now staying because the president told me that the only way I could leave was by paying the €700m release clause, which is impossible.”
So if Messi did really want to leave back then, why did he decide to sign a new contract? As of July the 1st, Messi was officially a free agent and could have joined any club he wished, that could afford his hefty wages, with both Man City and PSG very interested in his signature. The fact that he is also taking a pay cut to remain at a club he had stated that he wanted to leave is also baffling until you learn the final details of the contract. Messi has always stated his desire to play in the MLS towards the end of his career and this is something that could still happen under the terms of his new deal with Barcelona, as Spanish football expert Euan McTear explains,
“The reason it's a five-year deal is that it is likely that Messi will play the next two years but it's a longer deal so that he stays linked to the club as an ambassador. But the talk is he might go to MLS after two years while still being paid by the club.
“It's a way for Barcelona to spread out the payment over five years. That's part of the reason he's been able to take such a massive cut of around 50 per cent.”
Does this new deal end the debate as to who is better? Ronaldo or Messi?
Ever since these two icons of modern football reached the peak of their abilities, football fans across the globe have been drawn into the argument as to which one is the greatest player of all time. Much like political debates, fans often get stuck in their own beliefs in this great debate and aren't willing to listen to the opposition. However, I used to believe that Messi was the better player overall but my mind changed when Ronaldo decided to make the move from Real Madrid to try his luck in Serie A. The goals continued to flow for Ronaldo during his time in Italy and there is talk that he may well move again this summer. The fact that the Portuguese superstar has played and been the very best in England, Spain, and Italy gives him the edge over Messi for me. Portugal winning a major international tournament in 2016 made many others lean towards Ronaldo in this debate but now that Messi has ended his trophy drought with Argentina at this year's Copa America, were back to a level playing field.
Messi has scored 683 goals in 810 appearances for Barcelona, netting 76 goals in 151 caps for Argentina.
Ronaldo, who is 2-years older than Messi, has scored 674 goals in 896 club games, scoring 109 goals in 179 appearances for Portugal.
Of the two players, Messi looks set to score the most club goals while Ronaldo is set to beat his compatriot at international level.
Is Messi doing the right thing?
The short answer is, yes! Messi is Barcelona and remaining at the Catalonians will give him the best chance of ending his career with more goals than Ronaldo. However, there are a few more factors to consider, such as each player's attitude. Obviously, both Ronaldo and Messi have huge egos and have been known to have more say over the players they play with than some of their managers over the years. On the pitch, Messi is seen as the more laidback and easy-going of the two superstars, while Ronaldo appears far more cocky and arrogant, which certainly goes against him in many people's minds.
In terms of team and personal achievements, Messi has secured 10 top division titles, 7 domestic cups, 4 Champions Leagues, 3 Club World Cups, and the Copa America with Argentina. Messi is also a six-time winner of the Ballon d'Or.
Ronaldo has won 7 top-tier titles in three countries, 6 domestic cups, 5 Champions Leagues, 4 Club World Cups, and the European Championship with Portugal. The former Man Utd man has also secured 5 Ballon d'Or awards.
Messi has already won more titles and personal honours than Ronaldo and has two years on his arch-rival so staying at Barcelona and winning some more trophies will only keep him ahead of the Portuguese star, so staying at the Catalonians is surely in his best interest. We have seen Ronaldo prove his worth in three different countries and while it would have been great to see Messi move to another of Europe's big leagues and prove that he can do it outside of Barcelona would be nice, he doesn't really need to when you compare all the stats.
While Messi might not be totally convinced himself, this new deal with Barcelona could help seal the diminutive Argentinians' place in the annals of football history as the best player to have ever played the game, closely followed by his old pal, Cristiano Ronaldo. Of course, there will always be some sceptics that believe Messi should have proved himself in at least one other top European league before he retired and this debate will probably still be going well into the next generation of football fanatics.