Confirmation that Lionel Messi is set to bring an end to his legendary Barcelona career spells very, very bad news for the landscape of European football.
'Not be staying'
The bombshell announcement which rocked football to its very core was of course forthcoming a short time ago.
This came in the form of the revelation that, after 21 years with the club, Lionel Messi would be forced to call time on his spell with Barcelona.
Just hours after it had been widely reported that an agreement between the two parties was close, the Blaugrana released a statement, confirming that they had essentially been left with no choice but to part with the club's greatest-ever player.
The Catalans, in turn, have essentially pointed the finger of blame squarely at La Liga, for the 'financial and structural obstacles' laid in their path by those in a position of power in Spain:
'Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish Liga regulations).'
'As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.'
English Super League?
Putting aside the monumental blow dealt to Barcelona themselves, though, what does news of Messi moving on mean for the rest of European football?
Today's situation, in and of itself, almost perfectly encapsulates the state of affairs which has long been unfolding across the continent.
This comes in the form of the ever-looming threat of the Premier League simply breaking away as the one solely dominant top-5 league.
Claims have long circulated, generally on the part of those who only watch English football, that the Premier League is 'the only one worth watching', and 'easily the best' on the continent.
The latter suggestion, though, was not exactly difficult to argue against, when it was in fact Spanish clubs who were time and time again emerging triumphant in the Champions League and Europa League alike.
The tide, though, has for several years now been shifting. Whilst the Premier League continues to grow in might and attraction, football in the likes of Spain, Italy and France has been crippled by ever-mounting debt and financial restrictions.
The Covid-19 pandemic only served to worsen the situation, with the economic gap between the likes of Manchester City - tipped to splash out £200 million-plus over the coming weeks - and Real Madrid - restricted to the free agent addition of David Alaba this summer, now more glaring than ever before.
Of course, the likes of Barca and Real cannot simply be excused of all blame. The former in particular have represented one of the worst run clubs in world football for some time now.
But what of those sides in France, who have long competed at their maximum capacity, fully within the laws of the game, that were nevertheless faced with the legitimate risk of going bankrupt following the collapse of a single TV rights deal late last year?
The list goes on...
Inter Milan, champions of Italy, have already been forced to sell Achraf Hakimi to balance the club's books this summer, with Romelu Lukaku - one of the few true 'stars' in their prime currently lining up in Serie A - looking set to follow the Moroccan out the San Siro exit door.
Whilst Aston Villa, just two years on from returning to the top-tier of English football, now spend big on Emi Buendia, Leon Bailey and more, Juventus, Scudetto holders in 9 of the last 10 seasons, continue to haggle with Sassuolo in an attempt to lure Manuel Locatelli to Turin for a cut-price fee.
Such financial woes of course make it difficult not to think back to the European Super League debacle which came so close to turning European football as we know it on its head just months ago.
Upon closer inspection, though, is it really all that surprising that all of Real, Barca and Juve continue to push for such a project to come to fruition? Or, 'coincidentally', that the English clubs involved were the first to pull out?
Lionel Messi's Camp Nou departure, and the monetary reasons behind it, have simply shone a light on the kind of concerns which have existed at clubs across the continent for a number of years now.
The gap between the Premier League and 'the rest' is growing, and doesn't look like slowing down any time soon.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule - big-money backed Paris Saint-Germain being the most obvious, whilst Bayern Munich, amid the turmoil in the likes of Spain and Italy, should be commended as the most brilliantly run club in world football.
But such examples only serve to highlight the lack of competitiveness between those with money and those without, even on the domestic level.
If European football continues along its current path, a Super League may well be forthcoming. But not as it was planned before.
Instead, the Premier League will simply take its place as the sole dominant force on the continent, for years to come.
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