Messi stays at Barcelona: Cristiano, Kobe and sport's biggest U-turns

By Ben Spratt 5 September 2020 13
Messi stays at Barcelona: Cristiano, Kobe and sport's biggest U-turns

Lionel Messi is staying at Barcelona, but will he regret it?

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner last month announced his intention to leave his only senior club after a dismal 2019-20 season.

But with Barca insisting either Messi or any suitor would be required to pay his €700milllion release clause, their captain will instead remain at Camp Nou.

Messi is far from the first sports star to perform a U-turn when considering his future, though...
 

CRISTIANO RONALDO

Messi's great rival similarly tried to force a move in 2008, albeit Ronaldo was on a high after winning the Champions League with Manchester United.

The Portuguese had his heart set on a transfer to Real Madrid and made his desire clear as he publicly agreed with Sepp Blatter's claim keeping a player at a club against his will was like "modern slavery".

United would not budge, though, and Ronaldo stayed for another year and returned to the Champions League final, this time losing to Messi's Barca before finally getting his dream move to Madrid.

LUIS SUAREZ

Suarez, one of Messi's closest friends and a Barca team-mate, followed Ronaldo in attempting to leave a year before getting a big switch.

In 2013, the Liverpool forward announced his intention to depart Anfield, complaining of the media attention he received in England amid racism and biting scandals. Arsenal made a bid which appeared to activate a £40m release clause, but Liverpool insisted Suarez must stay.

As with Ronaldo, Suarez only stuck around for another season but was inspirational as the Reds came agonisingly close to the Premier League title. He then belatedly left to link up with Messi at Camp Nou.

KOBE BRYANT

Messi is not the first one-team man to come close to a move before backtracking. Lakers great Bryant, who would end his career with five titles in Los Angeles, briefly pushed for a trade in 2007.

Bryant had won three championships at that stage, but none since the final year of their three-peat in 2002, and openly discussed his frustration at the direction of the franchise while fuming at claims he was behind Shaquille O'Neal's exit from the team.

These issues came to a head as Bryant told the media he wanted a trade, but his U-turn proved far swifter than Messi's, quickly continuing his historic Lakers career.

BRETT FAVRE

Messi's return to the Barca fold has at least already proven more successful than Favre's attempted U-turn in 2008. After 17 seasons in the NFL, including 16 with the Green Bay Packers, the quarterback announced he was retiring.

But Favre then decided before the start of the new season he wanted to return to the Packers, who had by now been preparing with Aaron Rodgers – previously his understudy – in the role.

Barca may not have a ready-made Messi replacement, but Rodgers was more than capable of stepping up, meaning Favre had no job to return to. The veteran was instead sent to the New York Jets and failed to make the playoffs.

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Ben Spratt

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