One way to look at the ongoing legal battle between Electronic Arts and Zynga is to see it as a narrative. It is basically the story of a rich, powerful company that has been run amok and is now on the verge of being broken, or a company that has been in the hands of a few bad actors that can’t seem to get the company back on track. Either way, the case has the potential to be a true story in the court of public perception, with its epic scale and its twists and turns.
A behind the scenes look at the many things that can be done/determined/required to construct a new arena in the Chicago area, and the game-changing effects it will have on so many different levels of and aspects of the area’s economy. We’ll start from the beginning, and end up where we started, looking at the many different scenarios that could play out as the plan for the arena progresses.
Then in August, President Trump hired Matthew Whitaker, who was previously a federal prosecutor, to serve as acting attorney general. In late November, Trump then elevated the position of acting director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, and named him permanent director. And in early February, he named Christopher Wray as the new FBI director. In early March, it was reported that Trump had asked for a loyalty pledge from Wray during his Senate confirmation hearing, and then the New York Times reported that Wray had declined to make such a pledge. And then in mid-March Wray announced that special counsel Robert Mueller had asked him to take a leave of absence because he had been selected to become FBI director. So, what does this all mean?
Ninety-nine sentences to erase 21 years of hand-in-hand walking…not to mention 810 professional games, 683 goals, ten Liga championships, seven Copas del Rey, four Champions League titles, and three FIFA Club World Cups.
Barcelona’s brief statement on Thursday seems to leave little question that perhaps the greatest single club career of any player ever has come to an end, right down to the headline on the club website — Leo Messi not remaining at FC Barcelona.
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But, like with Messi’s “Burofax” incident a year ago, there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
Q: Everyone was claiming a few weeks back that Messi and the club had reached an agreement on a new deal. Today was dubbed “Messi Day” by Spanish media, since it would be the day when everything would be finalized. What went wrong?
A: Right now, all we know is that, despite having reached an agreement for a new five-year contract with Messi, Barcelona is unable to register the contract owing to the Spanish league’s player registration regulations. They don’t say what they’re talking about, but it’s fair to presume they’re talking about LaLiga’s version of the “salary cap,” which caps spending on salaries and player acquisition expenses based on anticipated club income and costs. Messi’s new deal will not be approved since Barcelona is in severe financial difficulties, with more than a billion dollars in debt, $800 million of which is characterized as short-term. As a result, he’ll be leaving.
Q: But how did this come to be? They had to know what the boundaries were going into the summer and the Messi talks…
A: Yeah, that’s one of the mysteries here. Especially since they spent $9.6 million on Emerson from Real Betis and also made three free agent signings — Memphis Depay from Lyon, and Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia from Manchester City — and the first two come with big salaries. The obvious question is this: If Messi was your priority (and he obviously was), why would you commit around $50m in wages and the Emerson fee to sign those four other players if it was going to put you over the cap? That’s why plenty are speculating there’s something else afoot.
Messi wants to remain at Barcelona, but circumstances beyond his control may force him to go. Getty Images/David Ramos
Q: For example?
A: According to certain sources, the Messi agreement had a last-minute snag in terms of commissions to be paid, and he wasn’t pleased with some of the club’s transfer transactions this summer (even though they did sign his buddy and Argentina teammate, Aguero). And, since they can’t blame Messi, the club is criticizing LaLiga’s regulations instead. There may be some truth to it, but the tight relationship with LaLiga and the possibility that it’s a power move between Barca president Joan Laporta and Liga president Javier Tebas is a far more likely reason.
Q: What’s the deal with that?
A: Control, in a nutshell. Barcelona is one of just three teams left in the Super League, along with Real Madrid and Juventus, and they are pursuing legal action to prove their case. Tebas, as one would assume, is adamantly opposed to the Super League, believing that it will jeopardize LaLiga’s competitive balance. Perhaps more significant is the agreement Tebas reached with CVC Capital Partners, a private equity firm, in which LaLiga would get a financial injection of approximately $3.2 billion in exchange for 10% of future revenues and a 10% share in a newly created commercial business. Barcelona, like Real Madrid (who, maybe not coincidentally, released their own statement on Thursday bemoaning the transaction), is adamantly opposed to the CVC arrangement.
Q: Why aren’t they happy with the deal? Isn’t it true that they don’t want the money?
A: I’m sure they do, but they also claim Tebas arranged the deal without their knowledge and that it gives private investors control of the clubs’ destiny. They’re also likely to be dissatisfied with how LaLiga and CVC plan to divide money in the future. The clubs must now ratify the agreement, with Real Madrid and Barcelona expected to spearhead the “no” campaign.
Q: I understand, but where does Messi fit in?
A: Simply stated, without Messi, LaLiga as a product is less value. His absence, or simply the prospect of his absence, might sway public opinion against Tebas and his objectives. Barcelona and Real Madrid earn the majority of Liga income, with a significant portion of it going to other teams. Messi’s departure would not only be detrimental to Barcelona, but also to LaLiga. Not only in terms of image, but also in terms of business. That’s one of the ideas that’s been floating around. However, there is a third, more straightforward possibility that may be the most likely.
Messi has a fantastic connection with Joan Laporta, the returning president, but the negotiations have been much more difficult than anybody anticipated. Getty Images/Jose Luis Contreras/DAX Images/NurPhoto
Q: What exactly is it?
A: It’s hard to imagine that after months of talking with Messi and his family, Barcelona would make a mistake and discover they couldn’t afford him. They were cautious to remain inside the limit, according to the nature of the five-year agreement they committed to. Furthermore, the transfer window remains open until September. They may, theoretically, shift their focus to other players in order to keep him around. It wouldn’t be simple since the players they want to leave Barca are paid well and few teams could afford them, but there are options. Not to mention the fact that, if Messi was as dedicated to remaining as they claim, he could reduce his salary demands, add extra incentives in his contract, or anything else he wanted. Instead, they’ve announced that they’re calling it quits.
LATEST NEWS | Leo Messi has decided to leave FC Barcelona.
5 August 2021 — FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona)
Q: So, what does it imply?
A: That it’s a calculated effort to frighten Tebas. Either in terms of CVC or the Super League, or, more simply, in terms of easing up on the wage limit for them. This seems to be a surrender without a struggle. And I don’t see Barcelona – or Messi – doing anything like that.
Q: Let’s suppose you’re mistaken. Let’s pretend it’s truly over. Where could he go next?
A: All of the typical suspects will be brought up: Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, and perhaps Manchester United, as well as a transfer to Major League Soccer are all possibilities. However, Messi became a free agent on July 1st, and he could have legally signed a pre-contract with anybody starting on January 1st. And, although there was interest from City a year ago, back in the days of the Burofax, it’s not like teams have been pounding a path to his door in the last six months. Why? Because many people thought he was set on remaining in Barcelona. Most clubs have now arranged alternative arrangements. Harry Kane is being pursued by City. PSG is attempting to extend Kylian Mbappe’s contract before he becomes a free agent in June (and they’ve already spent a lot of money on big-name free agents like Georginio Wijnaldum, Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Sergio Ramos). Signing Messi would be a massive task; you don’t simply come up with almost half a billion dollars over the next five years out of thin air.
Q: So, what are your plans?
A: I’m purely speculating here, we may know more when Laporta addresses the media on Friday and, by the way, we haven’t heard from Messi himself yet. But fundamentally we have a situation where — at least according to Barca’s statement — Messi wants to stay and the club want to keep him, but the league won’t allow it, even though his departure would hurt everyone, league included. Does that sound right or logical to you? No, it doesn’t. Because it isn’t. My guess is come Sept. 1, he’ll still be a Barcelona player. Either because he will have restructured the contract they agreed on, or because Barca will have recouped some transfer fees or because LaLiga will have revised their salary cap to accommodate the club. Or a combination of all three.
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