If Leo Messi is even half the prickly character that he is increasingly portrayed as being then there is a suspicion that the recent sudden burst of Barcelona news is intended to keep the star man happy ahead of the Copa America, where the Argentine will have to deal with a whole hedge of international headaches.
On Monday, the signing of Aleix Vidal was announced. Although the former Sevilla full-back cannot play until January 2016, the recruitment of the Spaniard after a lynch-pin performance for the Europa League winners on the right flank showed that the club was looking ahead to the post-Dani Alves era.
Not that it will be a concern for a wee while yet, with the Brazilian doing an abrupt turn-around from half-the-body-out-of-the club a couple of weeks ago to signing a new deal for another two years.
That news was partnered with the announcement that Luis Enrique would be staying on as coach after suggestions that the treble-winning Spaniard bore too many grudges after nearly being chopped during the dark days of January. Although the pair may never be bosom buddies, Messi can at least be fairly sure of having the same club manager for the new season, whilst spending the Copa America with a former Barcelona coach in Tata Martino.
This is the tournament that now awaits Messi, either a chance to make his mark on the international field with Argentina – something that many detractors still claim is necessary to become known as a true great of the game – or another disappointment. If Messi’s claim that the current team is stronger than the one that came close to winning the World Cup is true, then the Copa should be a bit of a breeze, with the action only really getting going in the knock-out stages. There lies an opportunity perhaps for Tata Martino to use the forward sparingly after what must have been a psychologically and physically gruelling club campaign.
Aside from what is seen as a golden generation for the hosts Chile, and the ever-dangerous Colombians, the biggest challenge is set to come from Messi’s striking partner for Barcelona, Neymar, a Brazilian whose fine season was overlooked by equally fine campaigns from Messi and the still internationally suspended Luis Suárez.
Whilst Messi’s role is to lift Argentina over that final hurdle and help the team to deliver on its promise, Neymar is key to wiping out the memories of Brazil a year ago. Dunga has already begun the job, with Wednesday night’s 1-0 win over Honduras being the ninth victory in a row, the second in a week in Brazil, where the team are starting to be forgiven. The biggest change is towards a more disciplined and mentally stronger outfit that won’t blub during penalty shoot-outs.
Both players have had stupendous club campaigns with Barcelona, but the holidays are far from over. Neymar is expected to lead a continual rebuilding process for the Brazilians, whilst Leo Messi needs to deliver once again for Argentina. The work never ends for the planet’s greatest player.