Sergio Busquets: Why he’s leaving Barca, where next and his role in Messi’s future

Another club legend – and for many, the best holding midfielder in football’s modern history – is leaving Barcelona.

Despite efforts by former teammate and current manager Xavi to persuade him to stay, Sergio Busquets has decided the time is right to end his long and illustrious career at the club.

He will leave Barca at the end of his contract at the end of June after 18 years, 15 of which were spent with the first team.

There were many factors that contributed to this final result and indeed, the 34-year-old midfielder has been weighing up the idea of ​​an exit for a long time.

Last August, when Barcelona hosted Manchester City in a charity game at the Camp Nou, Busquets admitted to some members of the City staff that he saw his final days at the club approaching while the summer transfer window was still open.

Xavi struggled to retain Busquets as he saw him as a fundamental part of his plans. Even in January, the manager urged his captain to stay and reject the option of a move to Major League Soccer.

That decision is justified. Busquets has played a crucial role in Barca’s La Liga success – they can seal the title on Sunday with victory at city rivals Espanyol – and has featured in 39 games so far in all competitions this season.

Xavi told Busquets after the Super Cup final in January (where Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-1) that he could still play a fundamental role in a successful team beyond this campaign.

But as the season wore on, the club suffered disappointment in Europe and with further problems off the pitch, Busquets’ mind was set on having a good ending at Barcelona.

His contract situation remains a matter of great debate at Barca. He is one of the top earners at a club that needs to cut costs, but there is always some noise, he is an easy target for criticism when things don’t go well.

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Barcelona offered Busquets new terms, but the only renewal he could put on the table included a significant pay cut. Busquets’ salary is reported to be around €24million (£20.8m; $26.3m) per season, and the new contract offered will see him earn 30 per cent of that.

That’s the financial reality facing Barca right now – and even long-serving servants like Busquets can’t help but accept it. Leaving at the end of the season after lifting the league title as captain was seen as the completion of his Barca career.

So, what’s next for him?

(Photo: Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

There are several possible scenarios. Busquets has previously been heavily linked with a move to MLS, with Inter Miami considered the main candidate.

According to sources close to the player — like everyone else quoted in this story — wanted to remain anonymous to protect relationships when speaking to him. Athletic – The former Spain international has been less attracted to a move to the United States in recent months.

The main reason for this concern is that MLS matches require a large amount of travel, which makes a more relaxed lifestyle outside of soccer difficult. Right now, it seems unlikely that Baskets will end up in America.

And in financial terms, he stands to earn less in the US than the significant offer he received a few months ago through a formal offer to play in Saudi Arabia.

It’s a scenario Busquets is seriously exploring right now, and as things stand it feels like the most likely destination for him. As expected, the player’s family is evaluating all the options before making the final choice.

And there’s also Lionel Messi’s future to introduce…

Messi, Jordi Alba and Busquets pictured in September 2020 (Photo: Josep Lago/AFP via Getty Images)

Busquets has been one of Messi’s best friends since sharing the dressing room at Barcelona. Their families have also been close in the years since Messi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021.

Indeed, Busquets was to be a key element in Barca’s efforts to persuade the Argentine to make his dream return to Catalonia this summer.

In April, senior Barca sources spoke of “doing everything we can to bring Messi back”, but also acknowledged that such a result would be difficult to achieve due to the club’s financial situation.

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Now that his good friend Busquets is no longer at Barcelona – despite the departure easing the club’s wage bill significantly – the prospect of Messi’s return is still remote.

But the idea of ​​him joining forces with Messi in Saudi Arabia is a possible outcome, and here we have to talk about a player whose immediate future can be linked to Busquets and Messi: Jordi Alba.

A few weeks ago, the only industry source working on player recruitment said Athletic A joint package is set to see Messi, Busquets and Alba play together in Saudi Arabia for the start of the 2024-2025 season, with the assumption that all three will be free agents by then.

Alba is also very close to Messi like Busquets. In February, the three players were pictured in Barcelona, ​​where they went out for dinner with friends and family.

The left-back, 34, is under contract until June 2024, but Barca are also keen to move him and on Wednesday he met club officials to discuss his future.

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Alba has said he wants to stay at Barca, but the club is open to finding a way to leave this summer, including the option to mutually terminate his contract. However, negotiations will be complicated by the terms of Alba’s current contract. His salary will increase in its final year – and he will also have to pay the payments he previously agreed to defer.

Busquets and Messi in February 2021 (Photo: Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In April, sources close to Messi said Athletic He had received an offer worth €400 million a year to play in Saudi Arabia, but his desire was to stay and play in Europe.

Recent reports – denied by Messi’s father Jorge – claim Messi has agreed to sign with Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal for the start of the 2023-24 season.

On Tuesday, sources close to Messi said Athletic No decision has been made on his future, but it has been confirmed that he is set to leave PSG when his contract expires at the end of the campaign.

Inter Miami have reportedly held discussions over signing Messi athletic, But the 35-year-old is three months away from entering the summer transfer window as a free agent. The only formal offer they have on the table is a massive offer from Saudi Arabia.

If Busquets is persuaded to move to the Middle East, surely those involved in the operation trying to sign Messi will see it as a positive step.

And here we come back to Busquets’ emotional announcement on Wednesday. Needless to say, in the coming days, we’ll be writing more in-depth about his relationship with Barca and his special talents that helped define a golden era for the club. But, for now, his decision to leave can be seen in two ways.

It was a personal choice of a footballer who felt it was time to start a new chapter.

But it could trigger the start of a domino effect that could soon see other key figures in the game fall to their next position.

(Top photo: Alex Caparos/Getty Images)

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