While the pang of the heartbreak may linger on for quite some time, the post-Lionel Messi era for FC Barcelona began on Sunday as the fans continued to chant his name and players still getting used to his absence on the field. Barca's first season without Messi in 17 years did start with a 4-2 win over Real Sociedad but wasn't met with the same cheers from the crowd. Some members from the crowd paid tribute to Messi, while others were still protesting against the club for letting the six-time Ballon d'Or winner go.
Most of the Messi loyalists loudly chanted his name in the 10th minute of the Barca match, a reference to the iconic number 10 jersey which he used to don at the club. While many fans wore the same number 10 jersey, there were banners honouring one of the greatest footballers the world has witnessed.
“Forever grateful to Messi,” read one of the many banners on display.
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Messi the most important player in Barca's history: Gerard Pique
Although there were some fans mocking Messi, he is already in France looking forward to his new life after Barcelona failed to offer him a new contract because of its financial struggles. Some fans chanted "Barca, Barca" instead of his name.
"We all know what Messi represented. He was the most important player in this club’s history," Barcelona’s Gerard Pique was quoted by news agency AP.
"But there’s an end to everything and we have to move on. There is a lot of quality in this team. We will be very competitive and I’m convinced that we will be contending for all the titles until the end," he added.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta was among the few targeted by fans protesting in and outside of Camp Nou, with some banners even suggesting he did not do enough to keep the team's greatest player ever. Some even blamed former president Josep Bartomeu, blaming him for the club’s financial difficulties that eventually led to Leo's exit. Whatever may be the case, for now, a new era has begun and it remains to be seen how Barca cope up in the absence of Messi who had become its global identity.