Livescore Thursday, April 25

So I guess this is it. What was supposed to be Barcelona’s great summer love has vanished, after Lionel Messi revealed he has decided to join MLS side Inter Miami.

“I’ve had two years where, on a family level, things weren’t good and I didn’t enjoy it,” Messi told Sport and Mundo Deportivo in an interview published on Wednesday evening.

“I had a lot of hope that I’d be able to come back (to Barcelona), but after living what I lived through and the exit that I had (from Barcelona), I didn’t want to come back to be in the same situation: to wait and see what was going to happen or leave my future in the hands of another person.

“I want to enjoy myself again.”

It hurt.

The return of Messi after two seasons at Paris Saint-Germain was high up on Xavi’s list of transfer priorities, but in the end, Barcelona just couldn’t afford it.

It felt like a break-up. Another one.

Barcelona fans consider Messi to be their own. The Argentinian first moved into the club’s youth academy when he was 13 and he, more than anyone, symbolises Barca’s golden era and the success of La Masia.

When Argentina triumphed at Qatar 2022, Barcelona went crazy. Messi was a champion again and some locals even felt that the World Cup was a little bit theirs. After all, it was won by the person who has most contributed to their football happiness over the last decade and a half.

But the circumstances of Messi’s departure from Barca in 2021 were so painful that even then, more than a year later, nobody would have dared to hope he would soon be coming back.

Over the past few months, though, that changed.

Messi fever began to spread in March, when suddenly there was a lot of noise about him maybe considering returning to Barca, with his contract at Paris Saint-Germain expiring.

Sergi Roberto spoke about it. So did Sergio Aguero, one of Messi’s best friends. Then Barca president Joan Laporta.

It stirred up those dormant feelings among the club’s fan base. There was news of meetings between Jorge Messi and Laporta in the Catalan press. And Javier Tebas, president of La Liga, said: “Barca have possibilities to make moves so that Messi can come in.”

On April 5, the second leg of Barca’s Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Madrid was played at Camp Nou. In the 10th minute, a unanimous chant rang out.

“Messi, Messi…”

It would become a regular feature at home games.

On May 21, when Barca lifted the La Liga trophy at Camp Nou, Rafa Yuste, the club’s vice-president, said: “I want Messi to return. Nice stories have to end well.”

There was no going back. The media went crazy. Questions about Messi became a regular feature of every Xavi press conference, and every interview with any member of the team. It seemed the movement could not be stopped.

Until it all stopped very abruptly, and three months of surging excitement was extinguished.

When Messi’s words were published, Barca fans began putting back those fond memories in the place where they had already been painfully buried once before.

The shirts with the No 10 that they had worn celebrating the La Liga title at the Canaletes fountain. The viral videos of his goal against Getafe in 2007, in pure Diego Armando Maradona style. The memories of that glorious 2009 Champions League final in Rome.

It has been a hard blow for supporters who will have to go away from home for at least a season to watch their team, with Barca playing at The Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium over 2023-24, and possibly beyond, while Camp Nou is redeveloped. It will be a strange time, and many were hoping for something special, for Messi’s last dance to light up Montjuic.

Now it’s time to accept that it’s not going to happen. Like when you see your ex-partner hand-in-hand with someone else. You can still be their friend, but you have to accept seeing them with someone new.

There was a sign Barcelona haven’t quite accepted this yet in their club statement that wished Messi “the best of luck” but also described MLS as “a league with fewer demands”.

That statement also made mention of future plans for a tribute to the 35-year-old. Many still feel regret over not being able to bid him a proper farewell. Some will still hold out hope he one day, somehow, still makes it back.

But for now, Messi is leaving for the United States in search of the happiness he hasn’t had in recent years, and this fan can only hope he finds it.

(Top photo: Joan Valls/Urbanandsport /NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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