"Half Catalonia crying to tears and the other half cursing." This is how the columnist of the Catalan edition of El Periódico, Emilio Pérez de Rozas, defined the mood with which millions of FC Barcelona supporters woke up.
Because that's it. It's over. Lionel Messi is not coming back, he will play for Inter Miami.
In Barcelona, in the surroundings of the Camp Nou, in works that make the hair stand on end to the fans for the 2,800 million of debt that the club has, his name appears on the back of almost vintage models of Barça shirts. They belong, without possibility of error, to melancholic tourists, like the couple of Muslims who arrived by taxi to the stalls that sell memorabilia at the door of the stadium: they got off to buy for 10 euros a scarf of Leo Messi, and returned to the taxi.
Today, the one that says "Messi, the best of the world" costs less than the one that has only the name of the club inscribed: 13 euros.
Devalued. Messi's scarves cost cheaper than Barcelona's. Photo: Clarín.
At 10 of Messi's Barça dare the melancholic or the boys, still fascinated with the mystique of a Leo who passed through here just a few days ago.
Many were excited when, at the end of May, Messi was singing Coldplay songs at the Lluís Companys stadium in Montjuïc – the same one that will become Barça's while the Camp Nou is under construction – during the last of the four concerts that the British band gave in Barcelona.
"The club has deceived us. He put the candy in our mouths. President (Joan) Laporta had been telling us for weeks that Messi's return was possible. They have cheated us," a bitter Catalan who claims not to be a fan but suffers from not seeing Leo with the Barcelona shirt again, tells Clarín.
"He's not going to play in the Champions League again. It's a shame," he laments.
The front pages of newspapers in Barcelona, dedicated to Messi's announcement. Photo: REUTERS/Albert Gea.
In the official store of the club, one of the employees confirms that there is not a pin of who was the 10 of the team. "Because he's no longer a player on the roster. If you want, you can make the shirt with his name on the back. The official club costs 90 euros. And personalize it, 25. You can put your name or Messi's. It costs the same," says the boy, serious.
In the three-story store, Leo only appears in an underground mural. With a baby face, happy and ahead of the cup, the mural recalls the team that won the Champions League in 2015.
Outside, Maiol Roger strolls with a life-size cardboard Messi. "I lost a bet and now I have to pay," says Maiol, who hosts a program on Catalan television.
In the facilities of Barcelona there are no images dedicated to Messi. Photo: Clarín.
"I was convinced I would return to the club. I gambled and lost. Now I have to walk to the Olympic stadium of Montjuïc accompanied by this Messi, "he confesses. He will have to walk seven kilometers with the cardboard Leo under his arm.
On the Ramblas, the only Messi shirts you see are those of the Argentine National Team. Although unofficial, they have the three stars and cost 20 euros.
"Messi? Now we sell it on key chains", ironizes one of the Pakistani vendors who have almost exclusivity among the souvenir businesses of Barcelona. And it offers a keychain with the shirt of 10.
The Catalan press, more caustic, also points to the president of Barça as responsible for the agreement that was not. They still remember, with irony, when Laporta said in 2021 he was going to convince Messi to stay at the club. "I fix Leo's with an asadito," Laporta said days before Messi made a change of address to Paris.
"Asado en Miami," the newspaper La Vanguardia tells Laporta today.
Each with his style, both president Joan Laporta and coach Xavi Hernández stoked the illusion of Barcelona fans. Photo: EFE/ Quique García.
The news is looking for comfort. "He preferred to flee the spotlight of European football," says Spanish public television.
"He is going to a less demanding league where he could share a dressing room with Busquets or Jordi Alba," insists the TV.
In Miami, during the third game of Wednesday's NBA Finals, screens at the Kaseya Center interrupted the scoreboard to greet him: "Welcome Lionel Messi."
7,500 kilometers from that welcome, Barcelona has no consolation.