Lionel Messi’s love-affair with Barcelona looks like it may just be heading towards a bitter divorce, the club’s greatest ever player having effectively gone on strike to force an exit from the Camp Nou.
A turbulent period in Catalonia has persuaded the Argentine that his future is away from the club where he has spent his entire career to date, winning a mammoth 10 league titles, four Champions League trophies and a record-breaking six Ballon d’Ors amongst his major honours.
Messi has established himself as the greatest goalscorer in the history of Spanish football and Barcelona, his current record standing at a staggering 634 goals in just 731 appearances in all competitions for the Blaugrana.
Seven different permanent managers have had the pleasure of coaching the world’s finest footballer at the Camp Nou, but it looks increasingly likely that newly-appointed Barca boss Ronald Koeman will not become the eighth.
We’ve decided to look back at Messi’s record throughout his time at the club, ranking the amount of goals the forward scored under his seven Barcelona managers:
Quique Setien – 15 goals in 25 appearances
The most recent manager to have coached Messi at Barcelona, Quique Setien lasted just 25 fixtures in charge of the Spanish giants and oversaw one of the club’s darkest days with that 8-2 Champions League humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich.
Setien has promised to return to the principles which have seen Barcelona thrive in the modern era following the more pragmatic approach of predecessor Ernesto Valverde, but he failed to deliver as the club regressed further under his stewardship.
Messi averaged better than a goal every other game throughout Setien’s disappointing reign but was unable to fire the club to success, crashing out of Europe and finishing five points behind Real Madrid in the race for La Liga.
Those failures were enough to prompt change, Setien swiftly ushered out the exit door.
Gerardo Martino – 41 goals in 46 appearances
Barcelona have a long history of appointing managers with previous links to the club, a policy they may well wish they had stuck to following the ill-fated reign of left-field appointment Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino.
The Argentine had won plaudits for his work with Newell’s Old Boys but was soon found out of his depth upon arriving at the Camp Nou, missing out on the Spanish title to Atletico Madrid and crashing out of the Champions League to the same side in the quarter-finals.
Martino’s struggles came despite the fine form of Messi – who reportedly recommended his compatriot for the manager’s position – the forward scoring 41 goals in just 46 appearances for the Catalan club.
It was ‘ta ta’ to Tata at the end of the season, however, as he left his role by mutual consent, the coach later describing his time at Barcelona as a ‘total failure’ and ‘the worst year’ of his managerial career.
Frank Rijkaard – 42 goals in 110 appearances
The man who handed Messi his opportunity as a precociously talented teenager, Rijkaard placed his faith in the 17-year-old forward after introducing the youngster as a substitute against Espanyol in 2004.
Messi became the youngest player in Barcelona’s history upon making his senior bow and steadily progressed in a stellar side containing talents such as Ronaldinho, Deco and Xavi, winning two league titles and the Champions League during Rijkaard’s reign.
Messi scored 42 goals under the guidance of the Dutchman, the highlight being a sensational hat-trick in a thrilling 3-3 against Real Madrid aged just 19-years-old.
Tito Vilanova – 44 goals in 36 appearances
Pep Guardiola’s decision to step down as Barcelona manager saw the club look for an internal solution, appointing long-time assistant Tito Vilanova as their new head coach in the summer of 2012.
The newly-appointed manager took charge of Messi at arguably the peak of his considerable powers, the Argentina international scoring a record 91 goals throughout the calendar year, breaking the long-standing record of former Bayern Munich star Gerd Muller.
Vilanova spent just a single season in charge of the Catalans before stepping down amid health concerns, Messi scoring a phenomenal 44 goals in just 36 appearances, in addition to a further 16 goals under interim boss Jordi Roura as Vilanova sought treatment for the cancer that would tragically take his life aged just 45-years-old in 2014.
Ernesto Valverde – 112 goals in 124 appearances
Ernesto Valverde proved an unpopular appointment at Barcelona but the manager’s perceived pragmatic approach did little to dampen the output of the irrepressible Messi, who plundered 112 goals in just 124 appearances during the Spaniard’s two-and-a-half year spell in charge.
That period saw Barcelona claim back-to-back Spanish league titles with Messi winning consecutive Pichichi awards as La Liga’s leading scorer, though the club’s faltering fortunes on the European stage ultimately saw the hierarchy opt for a change of direction.
Embarrassing Champions League capitulations against Roma and Liverpool in successive seasons proved costly for Valverde, who was sacked shortly after the turn of the New Year despite Barca sitting top of La Liga.
Luis Enrique – 153 goals in 158 appearances
The most successful Barcelona manager of the post-Guardiola era at the Camp Nou, Enrique re-established the club as the finest side in Europe during a memorable debut season in charge.
The former fans’ favourite had cut his managerial teeth during spells in charge of Roma and Celta Vigo, before flourishing once handed the reigns at the Catalan powerhouse.
His debut season saw Messi lead a formidable forward line containing the talents of Luis Suarez and Neymar to a historic treble, lifting the Champions League, La Liga and the Copa del Rey to become the first team in history to win two continental trebles.
The following season saw Enrique deliver a domestic double before further Copa del Rey glory in his final campaign as manager, the Spaniard winning nine trophies during his three seasons in charge before stepping down from his position.
Enrique later admitted that there were tensions between himself and Messi throughout his spell as manager, not that it seemed to effect the mesmerising magic of the Argentine superstar.
Pep Guardiola – 211 goals in 219 appearances
Could Messi be in line for a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City?
The Argentina captain has scored more goals under the Spaniard than any other coach, Messi the driving force behind a Barcelona side considered by many as the greatest club team of all time around a decade ago.
It was Guardiola who first shifted Messi into the now commonplace ‘false nine’ position, where his combination of flawless footwork and ruthless finishing saw him score 211 goals in just 219 appearances over a four season spell.
Messi’s finest individual season came during Guardiola’s final campaign in charge at the Camp Nou, scoring 73 times in all competitions – including 50 in just 37 league appearances – to set a succession of goalscoring records tumbling, the perfect player for the perfect coach.
Guardiola built his all-conquering side around the talents of Messi and together they revolutionised modern football, whilst a potential reunion in the Premier League could add yet another chapter to an already unforgettable story.