Barcelona will always look back on Lionel Messi's exit from the club with regret.
A hasty departure from the club he made his name at wasn't supposed to be the way the Argentinian said goodbye.
Messi wanted to stay and Barcelona didn't want to lose him. But the La Liga club's poor financial situation, caused by years of mismanagement and questionable decisions, meant they were unable to afford a new deal under the league's financial fair play rules.
"I did everything possible to stay," Messi said in a recent interview with Spanish newspaper Sport.
Messi's Champions League heartache
There were some difficult moments for Messi in his final few years at the club. They finished second in the Spanish top flight in 2019/20 and third in 2020/21, while a Champions League trophy has evaded the 34-year-old since 2015.
Barcelona's ability to compete for European football's biggest prize waned over the years, reaching the nadir in Messi's penultimate season when they were beaten 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the quarter-final.
Messi predicted Barca exit in Neymar text
Ernesto Valverde's men surrendered a 3-0 lead to lose 4-0 at Anfield in the semi-finals.
It was a distressing evening for Messi. And according to France Football, it prompted him to send former teammate Neymar a WhatsApp message in which he would predict his own exit from the Catalan outfit.
'In two years, I'm leaving'
"Only together can we win the Champions League," Messi wrote.
"I want you to come back. In two years, I'm leaving, and you'll be alone, you'll take my place."
If Messi had his own way in the summer, he would have remained at Barcelona beyond 2021.
But two years ago, it sounds like he had a different mindset - like he expected to leave upon the end of his contract.
That turned out to be the case and, coincidentally, it would end up being Messi who joined Neymar instead of the other way around.