Barcelona on Sunday, won Copa del Rey for the 31st time, equaling Real Madrid’s 92 titles record. The Catalonian giants piped Athletico Bilbao 4-0 to clinch their first title since 2018/19 season.
After a barren first half, French forward Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring with a 59 minute strike to put Barcelona ahead. Dutch midfielder Frenkie De Jong doubled the lead in the 63rd minute, and Argentine wonder boy Lionel Messi sealed the victory with a brace netted in the 68th and 72nd minutes of the match.
It was a breath of fresh air for Barcelona that has been riddled with crises, which have put the future of its captain Messi in doubt. The club is hoping to convince the six-time Ballon D’or winner to stay by returning to winning ways. Messi, who last year, requested to leave Barcelona, has been unhappy with the performance of the club, in and off the pitch, and was desperate to find joy in his trade by winning titles once again.
The Spanish giants got knocked out of the Champions League on Tuesday by Paris Saint German, narrowing their title hope for the season under the leadership of new coach, Andy Koeman.
“We are really happy for this title. It has been really tough Copa del Rey, suffering in a lot of games. We won all the ties. It is always special to celebrate a title, a great day for the club,” Messi said after the match.
The 2020/21 season began shaky for the Catalan side, casting doubt on the ability of Koeman to convince Messi to stay. But things turned around eventually, and Barcelona moved to top three in the league table from sixth position.
The Copa del Rey title is expected to change Messi’s decision and make him stay in his childhood club. In March, following the election of a new president, Joan Laporta, the goal has been to convince Messi to stay, even though Barcelona is also dealing with a financial crisis.
“I’m convinced that Messi wants to stay, he is deeply rooted in Barca. That’s what we want most. We will try to do whatever it takes, within our possibilities so that he continues to play for the club of his life,” Laporta said after the Copa del Rey title win.
Reports from Spain said Laporta’s plan is to convince Messi with a contract that will start with a lower salary than what he has now, and increases as the financial situation of the club improves.
Messi has maintained that his love for Barcelona goes beyond money, and he only wants a club with projects and a winning team. The recent changes in the club, from the president to coach to players, are believed to be wielding enough conviction for a better future that will make Messi stay.
“It’s been a difficult year. Like in life, you fall down and have to get back up. The team has turned the situation around. In 2021, the team is different, playing well. With a president who’s come back, Joan Laporta… it’s like starting again, a reset,” Gerard Pique, Barcelona’s center back said.
Barcelona is currently at the third position in the La Liga table with eight matches remaining, which means there is still a chance for the club to win the double in the season. With Copa del Rey down, a La Liga title will make the job of getting Messi to sign a new contract easier for Barcelona.