Priceless? Messi renewal will be worthless unless Barcelona get their house in order
Great news for Barcelona! The Blaugrana announced on Wednesday that Lionel Messi will put pen to paper on a fresh deal when he returns from his honeymoon. Now, the club must ensure his final years at Camp Nou are not wasted.
Messi's new contract will take him up until 2021, when he will turn 34, and the long-awaited extension is a real tonic for Barcelona ahead of the 2017-18 season, when the side must start afresh following the summer departure of Luis Enrique and the arrival of Ernesto Valverde as his replacement.
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"It's a unique experience to be able to coach Messi," Valverde said on the day of his unveiling. "He is the best player I have ever seen on a football pitch. I know it seems like he is at his peak, but every day he surprises you and the next day he is even better."
The Argentine's former coach Pep Guardiola said this week: "With Luis Enrique, when Barca were good, they were almost unbeatable. They played really good football. While Leo is there, that will always be the case -- he's the best player I've ever seen."
Barca were occasionally at their best last season, such as the wonderful win at the Santiago Bernabeu in April, when Messi scored a last-gasp winner before holding his shirt up to the crowd in an iconic celebration, and also in the 6-1 comeback victory against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
However, bad decisions at boardroom level and sub-standard signings have weakened this team over the past couple of years and, ultimately, Madrid's superior squad strength saw Los Blancos enjoy the last laugh in 2016-17 as they took home both La Liga and the Champions League trophies.
That will have hurt the Catalan club in an era that was supposed to be theirs, and now that Messi's future has been decided, there are plenty more pressing issues on the agenda at Camp Nou this summer.
New signings are needed and those must be better quality that last summer's arrivals (with the notable exception of the excellent Samuel Umtiti). Andre Gomes, Paco Alcacer, Lucas Digne and Denis Suarez did not contribute enough in 2016-17, while Dani Alves was allowed to leave and still has not been replaced.
Xavi (who left in 2015) has not been replaced either and with Andres Iniesta reaching the twilight of a glorious career, Barcelona's squad is in need of rejuvenation and revitalisation this summer. For the team to be almost unbeatable with Messi around, he has to be given the conditions to help the side succeed.
The apparent difficulties in signing both Marco Verratti and Hector Bellerin are already a concern, especially considering that those two players want to move to Barcelona, while the Catalans cannot afford to lose out to Madrid on Betis' brilliant young midfielder Dani Ceballos (having been beaten to the likes of Isco and Marco Asensio by their fierce rivals in recent seasons).
In the meantime, Barca's finances do not appear to be in great shape. The club has had to wait until the end of a financial year (which ended on June 30) to sign new players and also to close Messi's renewal, which could leave the coffers somewhat short for planned recruitment this summer as well.
On top of that, young talents like Jordi Mboula have left La Masia and legal problems continue to hang over this Barca board in the ongoing corruption case investigating Neymar's transfer in 2013.
So while Messi's renewal is certainly something to celebrate for fans and also the powers that be at Camp Nou, the club really needs to get its house in order to enjoy more success on the pitch in the Argentine's final few years in blau and grana.