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Breaking: Barcelona To Build a Champions League-winning Team As Messi Stays

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Breaking: Barcelona To Build a Champions League-winning Team As Messi Stays

The Argentine has taken a 50% wage cut to remain at Camp Nou, so the cash-strapped Blaugrana have to now hold up their end of the bargain

On one hand, the nightmare is ending for Barcelona.

The idea they might lose their captain, their all-time top goalscorer and arguably the greatest player in the history of the game, Lionel Messi, was a real fear.

Technically, they did, with Messi having been a free agent since July 1, and he will continue to be so until he puts pen to paper on the new five-year deal that has been drawn up with Barcelona.

President Joan Laporta was, at least, always confident he could convince the Argentina star to stay, offering him a sporting project that can richen his final years at the club with more trophies and success.

As confirmed by Goal, Messi has agreed a pay cut roughly equating to 50 per cent of his salary to stay, easing pressure on the Catalans, who are in dire financial straights.

This, on the other hand, is where the nightmare goes on.

Barca have a lot of work to do, not just to keep ridding themselves of deadwood and hammering their bulging wage bill into shape, but also in forming a team around Messi that can win the Champions League again.

Holding up their end of the bargain, so to speak.

With their 4-1 home thrashing by Paris Saint Germain in the last 16 of last season’s competition, Ronald Koeman and his team were given a pretty clear insight into how far off the pace they were compared to Europe’s elite.

Kylian Mbappe dismantled Barcelona’s creaking defence, while even the otherwise outstanding Pedri struggled to hold his own in midfield against the Ligue 1 giants.

Laporta’s board, therefore, worked quickly to tie up four signings at the start of the summer which will help reconstruct the team for the season to come.

Memphis Depay can ease pressure on Messi in attack with his willingness to dribble and direct play, while Sergio Aguero will not only offer goals but is close friends with his Argentine compatriot.

After Barcelona allowed Messi’s pal and Castelldefels neighbour Luis Suarez to join Atletico Madrid for next to nothing, costing their own team in terms of attacking edge, Aguero’s arrival is a way of undoing some of that damage.

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Eric Garcia will bring some much-needed pep to the defence, with Gerard Pique looking his age at times last season, Clement Lenglet in poor form and Samuel Umtiti always having fitness issues.

Emerson Royal is the fourth arrival, and while it is unclear if he will get many minutes this season, in pre-season at least he will battle for a place with Sergino Dest.

To register these players and Messi, Barcelona still have to clear big salaries off their books. Antoine Griezmann is a key player to shift, in that regard.

While Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho would also be good to remove, their injuries mean other sides are not forthcoming.

Griezmann, though, has plenty of suitors.

One of which is his former side Atletico Madrid, and according to Spanish reports, the France forward would like to return to the Wanda Metropolitano. Barcelona are said to be offering a swap deal involving Saul Niguez to make it happen.

After being beaten to the punch by PSG for Georginio Wijnaldum, Barcelona can bolster their midfield and remove Griezmann’s €34 million (£29m/$40m) pre-tax salary off their books in one fell swoop.

Saul would help give some rest to the over-used Pedri, or allow Frenkie de Jong to feature further back, in Sergio Busquets’s position, if the veteran needs some time out to stay fresh.

Messi, given the wage cut he is taking, obviously understands Barcelona’s financial position is precarious, but that does not mean he is not expecting the club to work hard to find ways to improve.

Koeman will also hope the young players he brought through – Ilaix Moriba, Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza – continue to develop in the same way Pedri has. They have more experience and are developing all the time.

Barcelona are also hopeful that NXGN 2021 winner Ansu Fati can pick up where he left off, although it has been a long road back to fitness for the young forward after a series of knee injury problems.

Barca ‘B’-team players such as Alejandro Balde and Inaki Pena may also get chances this season. Left-back Balde, 17, is set to play back-up to Jordi Alba after the club sold Junior Firpo to Leeds United, while Pena may even start the season in goal, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen still recovering from an operation and his back-up, Neto, likely to be sold.

Using La Masia graduates is also a step back to the club’s ideal path, a more self-sustainable way, instead of spending a lot of money on squad players who do not fit in, from Firpo, to Miralem Pjanic, to Francisco Trincao.

 

Barcelona’s team next season will look very different, but the club are at least now certain Messi will still be leading the charge.

They can only hope the team they are creating around him is good enough to help them climb back towards their perch as kings of Europe for the first time since 2015, and if not this season then in the years to come.

Given Messi’s gesture, when he could have walked away, they must do what they can to follow through on their end.

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