Lionel Messi is now free to speak to clubs outside of Spain about finally leaving Barcelona in the summer but – despite last year’s transfer request – does he still want to leave?
His future is shrouded in uncertainty with every option on the table, so Sky Sports News has pulled together this comprehensive analysis from all sides of the equation.
Will he be reunited with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City? Will he play for compatriot Mauricio Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain? Will he fly straight to the United States to play in MLS? Or will he finish his career as a one-club man and stay with Barcelona?
Here are all the potential eventualities, what is in them for Messi, and how each one could transpire…
Messi has publicly confirmed that he will wait until the end of the season before making a final decision on his uncertain future at Barcelona.
In a lengthy interview with Spanish broadcaster La Sexta before Christmas, the Argentina forward said: “What matters now is thinking about the team, finishing the year well and not being distracted by other things. I don’t know what will happen. I’m focused on what we have here and battling for whatever we can. I’ll wait until the season is over.”
That is when his Barca contract expires and he expects to have four options; stay at the Nou Camp, sign for either Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain, or move to the USA and finish his career in Major League Soccer.
He stated further in his interview that “I’ve always had the dream of playing in another league, in the United States” but that “he doesn’t know if it will happen”, which fuelled the prospect of a transfer out of the country in the summer.
So his future is hanging delicately in the balance as the January transfer window opens, with Messi now free to speak to other clubs outside of Spain and the platform set for those suitors to persuade him his future lies with them.
However, it is clear now that Messi wants to see the outcome of Barca’s January 24 presidential election and potentially meet the winner to listen to their future project, and where he would fit in.
That gives the likes of City, PSG and MLS teams just three weeks to make their case ahead of the Catalans. Otherwise a four-way battle will ensure in the months running up to June, which will include the boyhood club he still has much affection for.
There is not a great deal that Barcelona’s interim board can do to help persuade Messi to stay and sign another contract before the election. That job will be in the hands of the new president.
For that, there are really only two favourites for the job; Joan Laporta, who has been president before, and Victor Font, the telecommunications entrepreneur.
While there is no indication that Messi prefers either, and the player has been keeping well out of the way of the debate so far, Laporta has a good relationship with him having overseen the most successful period in the club’s history with Guardiola as head coach.
And Laporta said recently he would do “everything possible” to keep Messi if he returns for another spell at the helm
Font, meanwhile, wants to rebuild Barca from the bottom up; producing its players from La Masia academy, and he has been working with one of its best products – Messi’s former team-mate Xavi – to return as head coach.
Xavi is expected to be among Laporta’s considerations too but, on Messi, Font has said: “I’m convinced that with a competitive, exciting and, especially in Messi’s case, long-term project – one that could even go beyond the day that Messi retires – we will convince him to stay.”
The frontrunners will begin to emerge this month and they are expected to indicate who will take up key positions in the hierarchy. These developments will have a mark on Messi’s thinking, but it is really only when the election is made, and a firm blueprint put forward, that a significant bearing on Messi’s future will be made.
City were in the strongest position to sign Messi last summer, if he could have extracted himself from his contract via that disputed exit clause.
Sky Sports News was told then that both Messi and Guardiola wanted to renew their partnership at the Etihad – putting the Premier League runners-up in a commanding lead over other suitors – and that remains the case, especially now Messi is set to be available for no transfer fee this summer. Read from source….