Joining the club as a 14-year-old in 2006, it seems that some 16 years later Sergi Roberto is headed for the exit door and will leave boyhood club FC Barcelona for good.
Roberto has enjoyed a highly-successful tenure in the first team since breaking through to it as an 18-year-old in 2010. His trophy cabinet is brimming with at least six La Liga titles and a Champions League crown in 2015, with his name forever etched in Blaugrana history for scoring the winning goal in the monumental 6-1 comeback win over Paris Saint Germain on the continent in 2016.
Current first team coach Xavi Hernandez played by his side for a lot of these conquests, and wants the multifunctional Swiss Army knife of a player capable of manning right back and central midfield to stick around.
Yet Roberto and his camp are playing hard ball and stalling in negotiations to renew the four-year contract he signed in 2018 with a $553 million release clause, which expires on June 30.
Sport reported that Roberto had been offered a two-year extension in January, but the club were open to adding another season on to this.
As for the player, it was said that he was aware of the club’s financial difficulties including debts of around $1.5bn, but wanted to “study the proposal well” and make sure it was “reasonable for all parties”.
On Saturday, the same daily newspaper says that Roberto has priced himself out of a fresh agreement with high salary demands, “so everything indicates that Atletico Madrid will be his next destination”.
The Catalan publication claims that an offer is already on Roberto’s table for him to accept and join the reigning La Liga champions, who in the summer of 2020 memorably snatched Luis Suarez away from Barca for next to nothing and extracted top form from the bitter Uruguayan that fired Diego Simeone’s men to their first Spanish top flight triumph since 2014.
Should Roberto – who is currently recovering from injury – switch allegiances before the end of the season, he can expect a frosty reception from the Camp Nou crowd if Xavi picks him to play in any home matches.