Barcelona’s interim president, Carles Tusquets, has admitted that he “would have sold Lionel Messi in the summer”, with some big decisions facing those at Camp Nou.
A six-time Ballon d’Or winner looked to be heading for the exits when the 2019-20 campaign came to a close.
Having grown disillusioned with life in Catalunya on and off the field, Messi stunned the football world when stating his desire to move on.
Barca moved quickly to make the Argentine aware that a release clause in his contract was no longer valid, forcing the 33-year-old to reassess his options and agree to stay put.
His current terms are, however, only due to run until the summer of 2021 and no extension has been agreed as yet.
It could that whoever takes the reins finds themselves overseeing the end of an iconic spell for a modern-day great, with free agency beckoning.
The likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are said to be already jostling for position at the front of a recruitment queue, with a remarkable agreement potentially in the offing.
Tusquets believes Barca should have avoided any threat of Messi walking away for nothing by bowing to his demands in the last window and sanctioning a big-money sale.
He has told RAC1: “Economically speaking, I would have sold Messi in the summer.
“It would have been desirable for the money you would’ve received and the money you would’ve saved. La Liga requires wage limits.”
While Tusquets would have been willing to draw a line under Messi’s trophy-laden and record-setting spell at Camp Nou, plenty of those looking to take his place in the boardroom hold a different opinion.
Many, including the likes of Joan Laporta and Victor Font, have stated a desire to keep an all-time great in his current surroundings, with there a confidence on their part that fresh terms can be thrashed out.
For now, though, Barca are looking for Messi to spark their 2020-21 campaign into life, with Ronald Koeman taking to resting the South American over recent weeks for the bigger challenges to come.