President Josep Maria Bartomeu and the Barcelona board resigned on Tuesday; Spanish football expert Graham Hunter on Lionel Messi: “I want to leave you with the picture that he is playing for a club which, at the moment, is in its greatest state of turmoil since The Second World War”

The future of Lionel Messi is assessed after Josep Maria Bartomeu’s exit at Barcelona

Lionel Messi looked set to leave Barcelona this summer after falling out with the club’s hierarchy. But now president Josep Maria Bartomeu and the rest of the board have resigned, what does it mean for the future of Messi?

Messi demanded to leave Barcelona over the summer, criticising the board publicly in the process, after his relationship with the club’s president had soured.

Although Barcelona managed to keep Messi, in part due to his €700m release clause, their chances of retaining the Argentina international beyond this season appeared remote with his contract set to expire, but has the situation now changed?

Lionel Messi: What does Josep Maria Bartomeu's exit mean for Barcelona forward?

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Messi and Gerard Pique were critical of the outgoing Barcelona board

Sky Sports News obtained the views of two Spanish football experts to examine just what Bartomeu’s exit could mean for Messi…

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Graham Hunter admits Bartomeu’s resignation opens the door, however slightly, for Messi to sign a new contract and stay at Barcelona. But he is adamant Barcelona’s problems are so widespread that it will take more than a change of president to convince the six-time Ballon d’Or winner to stay at the Nou Camp.

“It’s definitely feasible [that Bartomeu’s exit could pave the way for Messi to stay at Barcelona],” said Hunter.

“Messi, among the many things he complained about when he sent the registered delivery letter to the club saying that he wanted to leave, many of the things were not changeable in the interim.

“But he said Bartomeu had lied to him, and said all season, ‘We will talk about letting you go at the end of the season, maybe you can go for free’. Bartomeu denied that, refused to let Messi go and therefore his removal has to be a source of some satisfaction for Lionel Messi.

Messi’s future remains uncertain at Barcelona despite the departure of Bartomeu, says Spanish football expert Graham Hunter

“But does it solve all the issues Messi was talking about? His need to win the Champions League again, his wish to be in a competitive side – it doesn’t change everything. It might bring in [presidential candidate] Victor Font and Xavi, two people who are very Messi sympathetic. It might lead to a new era where signings can be better, where a playing system that used to be established under Pep Guardiola and Frank Rijkaard and Tito Vilanova might be re-established. But will those things happen automatically now that Bartomeu has gone? No.

“I want to leave you with the picture that Lionel Messi is playing for a club which, at the moment, is in its greatest state of turmoil since The Second World War and therefore how does Messi choose what he does next? I don’t know.”

Alvaro Montero is in agreement. He does, though, stress that the outcome of Barcelona’s next presidential election will have huge repercussions for the future Messi. He says if former Barca president Joan Laporta – who oversaw the appointment of Pep Guardiola in 2008 – is re-elected it will mean Messi is far more likely to stay.

“Lionel Messi wanted to leave last summer and now he sees a chance to stay, if for example Joan Laporta arrives [as new president], because his relationship with Messi is fantastic,” Montero told Sky Sports News.

“He could stay, yes, for sure. It depends on the board members and the new president. With Bartomeu there was no chance but with a new president, in the case of Joan Laporta, his chances of staying at Barcelona are huge.”

What about Koeman?

Ronald Koeman was brought in as Barcelona head coach in the summer by Bartomeu, raising suggestions his days at the club could be numbered with the arrival of a new president.

Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman could delay club legend Xavi from replacing him by producing good results, Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero told Sky Sports News

Victor Font, one of the leading candidates to replace Bartomeu as Barcelona president, is determined to bring Xavi Hernandez back to the Nou Camp and install him as head coach. Meanwhile, Toni Freixa, another candidate vying for the role, has offered his support to Koeman and backed him to succeed.

So what does Bartomeu’s departure mean for Koeman?

Hunter says “nothing has really changed for Koeman in the interim” as the Dutchman would have been aware Bartomeu would be replaced sooner or later, and adds that it will be a welcome distraction from the 3-1 home defeat to Real Madrid over the weekend.

“No, Koeman won’t be worried, not at all because he is a wise old coot,” said Hunter.

“He knew Bartomeu was in the last year of his reign. Koeman took this one year risk. Koeman rolled the dice, it was a shot to nothing that he did so well that whichever president came in he might be forced to keep him.

“He knew it would be the longest he could get, because the leading candidate for the presidential elections is called Victor Font and he has publicly stated he will do everything to bring Xavi back and make Xavi the head coach as late as next June and maybe make another role for Koeman. But Victor Font, assuming he wins, has said that Koeman wouldn’t continue.”

Montero is more optimistic that Koeman could delay Xavi’s return to the Nou Camp if the side manages to improve results on the pitch.

Montero said: “Xavi is a good option because some of the presidential candidates have Xavi as their coach. Everyone knows that the natural transition in the future will be Xavi.

“But we have to remember that Ronaldo Koeman has signed for two years until 2022, I guess that his future depends not only on the president but on his development and the results.

“If his results are good he will stay in Barcelona and Xavi will have to wait.”

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