OFFICIAL: Barcelona top star to leave this summer
Barcelona confirm Sergio Busquets will leave this summer after 15 years at the club.
Sergio Busquets announced he was leaving Barcelona on Wednesday after 15 seasons at the club.
He is now expected to join Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia, fueling speculation that Lionel Messi will head the same way this summer.
Busquets, whose contract runs out at the end of the season, had been offered a new deal by Barcelona but signing it would have meant taking a 70 per cent pay cut.
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He delayed making a decision because in recent weeks Barcelona have been working to convince La Liga they can afford to re-sign Messi.
Busquets and Messi have an unwritten pact that they will play one more season together before they retire.
Busquets decision to quit Barça, coming just 24 hours after Messi’s father Jorge had to deny a story his son had already signed for Al Hilal, points to the two players reuniting in Saudi Arabia this summer.
Busquets has an offer of around 15m euros a season tax-free to join the club. Al Hilal are also interested in taking Jordi Alba whose Barcelona contract runs out in 2024. Alba had wanted to see out his deal so as not to lose out on the 17 million euros he is due to pick up in his final season but that would be easily compensated by the Saudi Arabian club.
Busquets’ decision to quit has also been influenced by a desire to bow out on a high lifting the Spanish title at the Camp Nou.
His decision marks the end of an era at the club. He was the last man standing from Barcelona’s greatest ever midfield first brought together under Pep Guardiola in the 2008-09 season.
Busquets was just 19 when he was called up to spend the first preseason under Guardiola training with the first team and he never looked back. Within a year he had a Champions League medal after Barcelona beat Manchester United in Rome. And in the second season he really soared when Guardiola surprised many by allowing the club to sell Yaya Toure to Manchester City.
Barça fans wondered why the club were selling such an asset to a European rival but there was method in Guardiola’s madness – he already knew that Busquets was going to be the club’s holding midfielder for the next decade.
‘Holding midfielder’ hardly does justice to the role he performed. He was the organizer, the metronome, Barcelona and Spain’s ‘Captain Sensible’ never losing his head.
And although when flanked by Iniesta and Xavi his role was largely defensive when they left he increasingly became the man to play the penetrative pass – a killer ball, usually to Messi. His assists became as important as his interceptions.
Asked to define Busquets, Iniesta once told Sports Mail: ‘inteligent, necessary, indispensable for any team, special. Leadership always came naturally to him. He sees his role as being at the service of the rest of the team. ‘Busi’ is a special person, that’s why we all love him.’
He was professional to the last detail. When he contracted Covid at the start of the last Euros – his final international tournament – he was sent home with a GPS vest and a training schedule drawn up by Spain’s fitness coach Rafael Pol and he stuck to it so diligently that according to the data from the vest he could have come back for Spain’s second group game only for coach Luis Enrique err on the side of caution and save him for Spain’s final group match.
Busquets first Spain manager Vicente del Bosque famously said if he could be reincarnated as any player it would be Busquets. The same question was asked to Busquets and he picked Guardiola.
When he has finished making a fortune in Saudi Arabia all eyes will be on him to see if he follows Guardiola and Xavi into management. ‘It’s not easy but I want to try,’ he has said in the past.
Busquets will start for Barcelona on Sunday in what will now be his last Catalan derby against Espanyol. If Barça win the game then Busquets will have his ninth league title – a last trophy that also saw him win three Champions Leagues, a World Cup and a Euros.