Lionel Messi said it himself. On Wednesday, the Argentine gave a lengthy interview with Spanish publications SPORT and Mundo Deportivo after it emerged that he would not, as many expected, return to Barcelona next season. He revealed that he'd been miserable in Paris. He conceded that he wanted to return to Catalunya. But he also noted that there are some people who probably don't want him there.
That is admittedly hard to imagine. Messi will forever be associated with Barca, a player who brought the club immense success, won seven Ballons d'Or in Catalunya, and outlasted numerous iterations of some of Europe's best sides. Who would be stupid, indignant and self-assuming enough to not to want him back?
But the detractors, made-up or otherwise, perhaps have a point. A Messi return was always enticing in theory and a dream for the football romantics. But its workability never seemed to be addressed. No one really asked why this should happen.
It was something that everyone brushed over, with Barcelona reportedly hastily assuming that they could simply slot the Argentine into their title-winning team. Messi-ball, they insisted, would work — forget everyone else.
This would have all made for great viewing. It is, after all, the most dramatic transfers that yield the best storylines, and generate the most likes on social media. Indeed, Cristiano Ronaldo would not being trolled for finishing second in the Saudi Pro League if the Glazer Family had realised that he probably wasn't going to make Manchester United better two years previously.
But the actual stuff, the real football, needs to cross the mind at some point, and those involved in the Messi saga never really seemed to consider that. It was all rumours, half-baked stories, and pictures of the player looking sad at Parc des Princes. No one really knew anything concrete until it was announced on Wednesday that he would play for Inter Miami. As it turns out, Messi didn't either. In fact, he wanted to join Barcelona — until he realised he couldn't.
His decision made Barca rather sad, and it will undoubtedly remain in the Blaugrana psyche for some time. Still, it's perhaps good for the club that they couldn't make it happen. Football romanticism is irresistible and inevitable, but it's systems that work. And with Barca looking to expand on a La Liga win and improve on a young, interesting core of players, Messi was never going to be the right fit — not anymore.