Barcelona's catastrophic finances prevented them from extending Lionel Messi's contract, and he departed the club in 2021 after almost 20 years of service. It was perhaps the most publicized move in history when the Argentine signed with Paris Saint-Germain.

He started talking to the Blaugrana about a contract extension and asked for three more years. Two of his nine requests were reportedly not met by the Barcelona hierarchy, which led to the breakdown of discussions, as reported by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

With any new contract, the seven-time Ballon d'Or would have expected compensation for the pay reduction he took on during the epidemic. After reportedly signing a three-year deal with the French side worth more than €100m, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner walked away from his former club for nothing.

The biggest struggle of Barcelona after Lionel Messi's exit

The ups and downs haven't stopped Xavi Hernandez's players from improving, and although they look better than last season, there's still room for correction. Free-kick situations are one example of this. Even though he left last summer, Messi's departure still has a significant impact on the Catalan giants.

The Argentine winger was instrumental in the attack and was renowned as a world-class free-kick specialist. Since Ronald Koeman's arrival and later even after Xavi Hernandez's appointment, this has been a consistent area of weakness for the side. When Leo departed the Blaugrana, he carried his ability to score from free kicks with him.

The most free-kicks within the box have been taken by Memphis Depay (6) and Ferran Torres (3). Despite his best efforts, the Dutch striker was unable to score. He has helped out on occasion but has yet to contribute a goal. Ousmane Dembele also took the occasional shot, although he used to be a dangerous threat from set pieces but has now lost his touch.

Messi's absence is definitely noticeable as Barca players, it seems, have gone without a direct free-kick goal for 16 months and counting. It last happened on May 2, 2021, on Matchday 34 of the 2021-22 La Liga season when Valencia hosted Barcelona. The final score was 3-2 in favor of the away team after Leo Messi scored to make it 3-1.