Messi Stays at Barcelona But Oddsmakers Back Their Rivals
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Lionel Messi is staying at Barcelona after all. But for soccer betting purposes, the bookmakers don’t see him winning the two biggest trophies the club competes for in the 2020-21 season.
The saga of whether the 33-year-old Argentine superstar would stay at Barcelona or try to end his contract has been brewing for weeks. It ended Friday when Messi announced — somewhat reluctantly — that he would remain with the club this season rather than enter what could have been a protracted legal fight to engineer a transfer. Messi had said publicly this summer that he wanted to leave.
Bookmakers still had Barcelona on Friday afternoon as the No. 2 choice to win Spain’s La Liga, behind defending champion and archrival Real Madrid.
Odds on winning Spain’s top division varied at U.S. bookmakers. FanDuel had the widest margin, with Real Madrid at -170 and Barcelona at +195. Real Madrid was between -150 and -165 at other books, with FOX Bet, BetMGM and William Hill all offering -150 odds. Barcelona was +175 at DraftKings, Unibet and Resorts, with other books placing the Catalan club between +162 and +150.
The odds of the blaugrana winning the biggest club trophy in Europe, the UEFA Champions League, were even bleaker.
Barcelona, a five-time winner, was listed as the seventh favorite in Champions League betting to win the 2020-21 competition at William Hill at +1600. Defending champion Bayern Munich was the favorite at +400, followed by Manchester City (+450), Liverpool (+700), Paris St.-Germain (+900), Real Madrid (+1000) and Juventus (+1200). Unibet listed Barca (+1500) at No. 6 on its Champions League odds board, well behind co-favorites Bayern Munich and Manchester City (+400).
Messi Transfer Saga Ends, For Now
Barcelona’s failure to win the recently concluded Champions League set in motion a public fight over Messi’s effort to free himself from his contract with the only club he has ever known as a professional. Bayern Munich routed Barcelona 8-2 in the quarterfinals on Aug. 14 and Messi lashed out publicly afterward, calling the club “weak” after a rare season without a trophy.
But in an interview on Friday with Goal.com, Messi said the loss to Bayern Munich alone did not spark his desire to leave Barcelona.
“I had been thinking about the decision for a long time,” Messi said, according to the website. “I told (club president Josep Maria Bartomeu) and, well, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not keep his word.”
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“I told the club, including the president, that I wanted to go. I've been telling him that all year. I believed it was time to step aside.” Part of the dispute was defining when last season ended — in a normal year it would have been late May or early June. But with everything delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Barcelona’s 2019-20 season, first in La Liga then in the Champions League, ran well into August, which normally would be near the end of the summer transfer window.
Just last week, bookies in Europe posted odds of +100 that Messi would leave the Spanish giant, with Manchester City — whose manager, Pep Guardiola, coached Messi and Barcelona from 2008-12 — installed as the favorite to land him. But the line on Messi leaving drifted in recent days as it seemed more apparent Barcelona would keep him.
Messi is a record six-time winner of the Ballon D’Or as the world soccer player of the year. Since he joined Barcelona’s senior team, the club has been crowned Spanish champion 10 times, won four Champions League titles and earned six Spanish Cup (Copa del Rey) trophies. Messi’s 634 goals in all competitions for Barcelona is more than the next three scorers on the club’s all-time list combined.