Current and former Barcelona stars have paid tribute to Lionel Messi on social media after he confirmed that he was leaving Barcelona following 17 years of trophy-laden success at the club.
“I have still not come to terms with the reality of leaving this club now – I love this club,” said Messi, who several times wiped away tears before a squadron of reporters at the club’s Camp Nou ground who gave him a standing ovation on Sunday.
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Messi, widely considered the most gifted player in the history of the game, has won 35 trophies at the club which he joined as a 13-year-old – including four Champions Leagues and 10 league titles while his 672 goals are a record for any of the top five European leagues.
Former Barcelona and England star Gary Lineker was one of the first ones to react to the news, praising the Argentinian’s legacy on Sunday.
“So sad watching a clearly very emotional Lionel Messi having to say goodbye to @FCBarcelona,” tweeted Lineker, who spent three seasons with the Catalan giants in the late 1980s, winning a Spanish Cup and a Cup Winners Cup.
“No player in the history of the sport has given so much joy, so many unforgettable moments, so much success to one club,” said Lineker.
So sad watching a clearly very emotional Lionel Messi having to say goodbye to @FCBarcelona. No player in the history of the sport has given so much joy, so many unforgettable moments, so much success to one club.
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) August 8, 2021
The club itself posted on its Twitter feed a picture of Messi surrounded by replicas of the trophies he has won with the single word: “Unrepeatable.”
“When Messi cries, we all cry. Big hug. Love u Leo,” Barcelona also tweeted.
Unrepeatable 🐐 pic.twitter.com/xpWRDlHyCq
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 8, 2021
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman, whose goal won the club their first European Cup in 1992, tweeted on Saturday that for him it was “still hard to understand that you will not play for @FCBarcelona any more” while saluting Messi’s work ethic.
Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong tweeted late on Saturday that “when I was a child I enjoyed watching all your games with my brother on TV in our room”.
“When I came here two years ago I discovered you are an incredible person. It has been a dream to play alongside the best player in history,” said de Jong.
Barcelona’s former midfield general Andres Iniesta looked back on 14 years of often “magical moments” but added “imagining the club without you or seeing you at the Camp Nou in another shirt” would be very hard.
Another teammate Sergino Dest said playing alongside Messi was a dream come through for him.
He tweeted: “As a kid, you dream of playing with players like Leo Messi. Although just a year, I am blessed to have been able to play with you in this club where you made so much history. It’ll be something I cherish for the rest of my life.”
As a kid, you dream of playing with players like Leo Messi. Although just a year, I am blessed to have been able to play with you in this club where you made so much history. It’ll be something I cherish for the rest of my life. pic.twitter.com/vL9LOgthu3
— Sergiño Dest (@sergino_dest) August 7, 2021