Barcelona emerge stronger from Messi situation: Richard Buxton
Catalan giants have reached a better position after talisman's threat to leave
Less than a year ago, Lionel Messi added a new word to football's growing lexicon.
He sent a burofax to Barcelona's embattled hierarchy signalling his intention to leave.
At 33, Messi felt there was little left for him to achieve at the Nou Camp.
But that rare public agitation sparked a chain of events which promises to place the Catalan club on a better footing than little under 12 months ago.
Messi's refusal to keep personal counsel helped bring down despised former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who chose to resign rather than face a no-confidence motion.
Under a returning Joan Laporta, the winner of March's elections, Barca have been forced to rethink their transfer strategy after over a decade of reckless spending.
Retaining the six-time Ballon d'Or winner remains the foremost priority, yet is easier said than done with the club's overall debt continuing to exceed one billion euros (S$1.6b).
Even registering Messi for next season is complicated by the need to trim the squad's obscene wage bill to meet La Liga's financial fair play statutes.
As a result, he has spent the past fortnight as a free agent after his contract expired last month.
The Argentina captain, for his part, is reportedly set to sign a new five-year contract at 50 per cent of his previous salary, which is believed to be over 500m euros across four years.
Laporta, however, has still been required to box smart in his balancing act of upgrading an imbalanced squad without needlessly plunging Barcelona into further financial peril.
That has led to a series of astute additions at minimal cost.
Messi's compatriot Sergio Aguero arrived on a free transfer from Manchester City, as did academy graduate Eric Garcia, alongside ex-Manchester United forward Memphis Depay, who has strengthened Ronald Koeman's Dutch contingent.
The five-time European champions' spending tally this summer stands at nine million euros; a far cry from the previous campaign's eye-watering outlay of 119m euros.
Ironically, Barca are now preparing to employ the same "clever" accounting which saw them accept a raw deal from Juventus by signing Miralem Pjanic and sending Arthur Melo in the opposite direction in a bid to balance the books last season.
Atletico Madrid are willing to entertain a swop which would see Antoine Griezmann returning to his former employers in exchange for Saul Niguez and 15m euros.
Gifting the World Cup winner back to Diego Simeone after receiving a minimal return on his 120m-euro transfer fee, with 35 goals in 99 appearances since joining in 2019, may seem like an act of economic self-sabotage for a club drowning in their past largesse.
Yet Barcelona's Year Zero approach to driving down debt means they will offload one of their highest earners in Griezmann and inherit a player far more suited to their needs.
Saul's tenacious streak makes him one of the most coveted enforcers in Europe, with Liverpool and Chelsea both lurking with intent in hopes that the deal will fall through.
Without Messi's burofax intervention, Barcelona might not even be in the running for him.
Mario Kempes recently insisted his compatriot will never match up to the late, great Diego Maradona, despite finally guiding Argentina to long-awaited Copa America glory.
If Barca's road to redemption bears fruit, Messi will be held in the same esteem as Johan Cruyff as a catalyst for positive change, off the pitch as much as on it.
"Messi's contract renewal is progressing adequately...
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