Lionel Messi could end up staying at Barcelona and acting like last summer never happened.
There could yet be a happy ending to this turbulent, unpredictable season, with the Blaugrana finding their form again and sitting just four points behind league-leaders Atletico Madrid.
Their talisman signed off for the international break with a brace and an assist in the 6-1 win over Real Sociedad.
That victory also saw him become the club’s record appearance holder, passing former teammate Xavi.
As Messi stats go, that’s a pretty run-of-the-mill achievement. More significant is the fact that in Barcelona’s history, no other player has scored as many goals, won as many titles or won as many games.
In Catalonia and well beyond, that’s part of the reason he’s considered by many to be the Greatest of All Time (GOAT). His record sixth Ballon d’Or in 2019 further tipped the consensus in his favour, with all but the most militant Cristiano Ronaldo fans prepared to acknowledged the Argentine’s prestige.
A lot has happened since then, however, and it seems Messi’s stock has fallen considerably among Barcelona supporters.
While his form in 2021 has been nothing short of spectacular, it seems many of them no longer consider him the best player in their history.
A fan poll asking that very question has been cited in The Mirror and it shows that despite his incredible legacy, Messi has been pipped to the top spot. Here are the top 10:
10. Carles Puyol
9. Gerard Pique
8. Ronaldo Nazario
7. Luis Suarez
5. Andres Iniesta
4. Johann Cruyff
2. Lionel Messi
1. Diego Maradona
There is no room for Neymar, Rivaldo or Ronald Koeman – but let’s get into the real question here.
Maradona or Messi? Your opinion on who was the superior forward might depend on what generation you belong to, or even whether you happen to come from Argentina.
One was a World Cup winner, the other’s international career has ultimately come up short when it comes to major tournaments.
That shouldn’t really affect their status at Barcelona, especially as Maradona only spent two years with the club before heading off to enjoy even better years at Napoli.
Ronaldo, likewise, makes the top 10 despite only spending one season at Barca – though he did score a remarkable 47 goals in that campaign. Only Messi and Suarez have had better seasons.
So despite the Brazilian later shining for Real Madrid, fans of Los Blancos’ bitter rivals have been able to forgive him.
Are they still angry at Messi for how he conducted himself last summer? Perhaps, but it’s looking increasingly hopeful he could stay put.