After months of speculation, Lionel Messi has officially committed to Barcelona until 2019—and the club could not be smarter for making it happen without hesitation.
Barca released the details of the contract via Twitter:
Messi struggled through a bit of a down year and missed time due to injury, but was still one of the best players in the world. At 26 years old, Messi is still the lone athlete on the planet a team simply cannot get matching value for in some sort of transaction.
It’s the people of Barcelona who decide my future, but my choice is to continue because I still feel the same affection from them as always. Even if that wasn’t the case, I’d still seek a solution, because I always want the best for this club.
Translation: Messi was ready to play ball. The word "solution" in the above quote should say that enough.
This is fine, but Barcelona—coming off a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid—were smart enough to be proactive.
Down year or not—how one has a down year when scoring 36 goals in 38 appearances in both La Liga and the Champions League is hard to fathom—the fact remains there is no better option for Barca.
As detailed by Squawka and WhoScored.com, Messi's numbers do the talking and justify every ounce of pay headed his way:
Lionel Messi has scored a goal, executed a key pass or made an assist once every 23.6 mins in La Liga this season. pic.twitter.com/yICljzWxh2— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 16, 2014
Lionel Messi: Has dribbled past an opponent at least 405 more times (767) than any other player in the last 5 seasons in La Liga— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 16, 2014
The move by Barca transcends any individual sport. Teams have to pay their best players, especially if there will be nowhere close to equal value should he depart. Messi is the ultimate centerpiece, and like any other top-flight athlete, wants to be paid like such.
Better yet, he wants to be around.
This is even more critical for the current state of Barca as Luis Enrique takes over in place of former manager Gerardo Martino, who resigned after losing the league title to Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona is in a state of transition as it loses Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes. While its one-year transfer ban is currently suspended, that could very much be reinstated in future transfer windows.
Barcelona sits on the sidelines as Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid go at itfor the domestic title, but the club has been aggressive in getting a head start on what is the most important summer for the club in recent memory.
With four-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi in the fold while in the meat of his prime, Barcelona has insulated itself from future issues by taking care of the most pertinent house cleaning right away.
Bring on the summer.