• Messi told Barcelona he wants to leave, and this is why they should let him go

    It's incredible to think about, but there's precedent for Barcelona and Lionel Messi to end up in court over their latest battle, which escalated Tuesday when Messi informed the club that he wants to leave after nearly 20 years of service. That the positions adopted by both parties -- the wounded genius vs. the modern version of the Keystone Kops -- mean that unless someone blinks, they'll end up back there again is astounding.

    From Josep Bartomeu through departed football "brain" and sporting director Pep Segura, plus the hapless Quique Setien, his assistant coach Edu Sarabia and now the surviving "technical secretary," Ramon Planes, I can't quite imagine how they have the gall to look themselves in the mirror tonight, tomorrow or in the coming months. They have, cumulatively, taken Leo Messi's love and devotion for the club that he has made great and pretty much soiled it.

    However, here we are. The fact is that my argument, given that it involves accurate historical precedent, good guidance, maturity and vision, will probably be ignored by Bartomeu and his acolytes, but here goes nothing.

    The unhappiness and discord between the two sides, plus the club's continuing ineptitude, mean that it is time for Messi to leave Barcelona.

    When Joan Laporta's board decided in 2008 that Messi was "too important" to the velvet revolution that was taking place at Barcelona, now that they'd promoted a B-team coach named Pep Guardiola to the first team, for him to be allowed to tilt at the Olympic football gold medal for Argentina in Beijing, the conflict was drawn-out, ill-judged and ill-tempered, and it ended with a ruling in the club's favour by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the definitive legal jurisdiction.

    Back then the club's president, who has always been an arch-critic of this board and their leader, Bartomeu, was in a situation that felt, to him, as "rock and hard place" as the current one does to those in power at Camp Nou. With a couple of trophy-less years, an atrophied squad and the risk, which in 2008 felt like a huge risk even to Guardiola, of promoting an untested boy wonder at the expense of a proven winner such as Jose Mourinho, Laporta desperately wanted the new season, which included having to qualify for the Champions League, to begin with Messi in the first team -- not at risk of injury in China.

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