Assessing How 7 Clubs Fared After Their Star Performer Left

​Lionel Messi’s magnificent career with Barcelona could be coming to an end after club president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is free to leave this summer.

Across 16 seasons with La Blaugrana, the Argentine marvel has won ten La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and a hat-trick of Club World Cups, among other honours.

He’s hit 603 goals in that time and become an irreplaceable part of the side, who have struggled in his absence recently.

Lionel Messi

Messi has discussed his love for the Catalans and insists ​he wants to stay, but that won’t stop rumours of a sensational exit at the close of the current campaign. Should he go, ​Barça will surely suffer.

To give an idea of how big a blow him leaving would be, here’s a look at seven other major departures and an assessment of how each club got on without their talismanic leaders.

Liverpool & Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard

​Liverpool finished sixth in Steven Gerrard’s final year at Anfield, the Reds sitting just two points above ​Southampton.

Since the all-action midfielder left, Jurgen Klopp has overseen runs to two consecutive ​Champions League finals, his men winning the second with a comfortable 2-0 triumph over ​Tottenham.

Considering Gerrard was the glue keeping Liverpool together during the last few years of his career with the club, they’ve done incredibly well without him. 

When he went to Major League Soccer in 2015, no one would have believed they could collect 97 points in a single campaign just a few seasons down the line.

How They Fared: 9/10

Roma & Francesco Totti


On 786 occasions, Francesco Totti pulled on a Roma shirt. On 786 occasions, the forward gave blood, sweat and tears for I Giallorossi’s cause.

He’s been out of the picture for a couple of campaigns now and will no doubt be pleased to see his old teammates still sparkling on the European stage.

They failed to qualify for the Champions League for this term, but in his first year of retirement they pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in the competition’s history. 

Their spectacular quarter final defeat of Barcelona in 2018 will live long in the memory of all football fans, not just those of Roma.

How They Fared: 7/10

Tottenham & Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale – who may as well have been the entire Tottenham team during the 2012/13 season – was sold to ​Real Madrid for a world-record fee of £86m in 2013 and the club wasted nearly all of it on sub-par signings. Things were decidedly bleak at White Hart Lane.

Then they made the perfect purchase, but this time it wasn’t a player. Mauricio Pochettino was lured to the capital from Southampton and the coach has overseen a mini revolution with the Lilywhites.

Spurs are now searching for a fifth top four finish in a row. We may take it for granted in present day, but that is a fantastic achievement for the team. All that’s left is a new trophy for the cabinet!

How They Fared: 6/10

Chelsea & John Terry

John Terry

​Chelsea have hardly been catastrophic following the departure of stalwart centre back John Terry. Nevertheless, there have been some clear leadership issues at Stamford Bridge.

Maurizio Sarri left at the first available opportunity after wrestling for power with his own squad, with Kepa Arrizabalaga one of numerous players guilty of mutinous behaviour during the Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester City.

Had their legendary skipper been around, you can bet his teammates would have stayed in line.

How They Fared: 5/10

Real Madrid & Cristiano Ronaldo


To best understand the effect Cristiano Ronaldo had at Real Madrid, cast your eyes over these alarming statistics.

Los Blancos recorded a goal difference of +17 in ​La Liga last term. When the Portuguese superstar was around, they averaged +54.

We all know how potent a threat Ronaldo was in Madrid. Still, that difference is ludicrous and shows just how far they’ve fallen since he switched to ​Juventus.

How They Fared: 3/10

Manchester United & Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson

The fans are at their wit’s end, many of the players seem wholly disinterested, the manager is walking on ice and the board are a bunch of clowns. What on earth is going on at ​Manchester United?!

​Sir Alex Ferguson forged arguably the greatest team the world has ever seen. Then he did it again. And then he did it again. However, his creation has since turned to ruins.

How They Fared: 2/10

Napoli & Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona was a messiah at Stadio San Paolo. Without their saviour, ​Napoli went up in flames.

His final four seasons in southern Italy saw I Partenopei deliver two Scudetti, a UEFA Cup, a Coppa Italia and an Italian Super Cup to their adoring fans. How those supporters would be punished in the decades that followed.

Having battled with various addictions during his playing career, Maradona left the city in disgrace after he tested positive for cocaine following a match with Bari in 1991.

The success dried up. Challenging for trophies soon became a distant memory, with Napoli relegated to Serie B in 1998. Instability and corruption were rife, financial problems crippled the side, all hope seemed lost.

They’re back at the top these days, below only Juventus in Italy, but it was a long, painful journey from their own personal hell.

How They Fared: 0/10


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