Reports from Spain this morning will not go down well with Barcelona fans. Claims that club captain Lionel Messi could part ways with the club at the end of his contract in 2021 are making waves across the world.
According to Cadena SER, the Argentine superstar, who recently amassed an incredible tally of 700 career goals for club and country, is “fed up” of the internal conflicts at Barcelona and does not want to continue past his contract expiration at the end of next season.
The La Liga giants have been under the microscope for the majority of the season because of their underwhelming on-field performances, as well as behind-the-scenes controversies. Club president Josep Bartomeu’s relationship with the players and the fans looks irreparable following his incomprehensible transfer policies, broken leadership, and alleged engagement of internal corruption.
Lionel Messi, who usually is not the most outspoken individual, has criticised the board several times this season, most notably in his rift with sporting director Eric Abidal. The former Barcelona player questioned the players’ professionalism in training and appeared to blame them for Ernesto Valverde’s sacking.
Messi hit back at Abidal’s claims stating that the Frenchman was “dirtying” everyone by not taking specific names. He also stated that the Barcelona board should own up to their decisions and accept their share of the blame instead of putting it down on the players.
Apart from the beefs with the board, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner is also frustrated with the “lack of quality in the squad”. It was evident during the summer transfer window that Lionel Messi wanted the Barcelona hierarchy to bring Neymar back, a move which obviously did not materialise.
Antoine Griezmann’s blockbuster signing has not gone according to plan, Ousmane Dembele is still struggling with injuries, Arthur has been shipped off to Barcelona, and most of the Blaugrana players have entered their 30s. The squad undoubtedly needs a massive overhaul, however, the significant lack of funds is another issue the club is currently dealing with.
All this has reportedly infuriated the Argentinian legend, who could do the impossible next summer and leave Barcelona.
Where could Lionel Messi go?
The question beckons, what could be Lionel Messi’s possible next destination? Many will point to the Premier League with Manchester City the most viable option for the Barcelona icon. A potential reunion with Pep Guardiola could be a dreamy proposition for any onlooker of the game.
However, the Catalan manager himself is most likely departing the blue half of Manchester at the end of next season. Guardiola has already won 7 major honours at the club and he might be ready to call off an illustrious five-year cycle at City in search of newer horizons. He also repeatedly quashed rumours of Messi coming to England, stating that he himself wants his former player to remain at Barcelona for the rest of his career.
In that case, will Lionel Messi be tempted to join the Mancunian giants without Guardiola at the helm? The answer could be both - yes or no.
Manchester City are one of the few clubs in Europe who could afford a player like Lionel Messi and his exorbitant wages. The club’s directors are former Barcelona employees and their attacking brand of football complements his playing style.
It seems like a stretch but if Lionel Messi is to cross the English channel in order to prove his doubters that he can actually come out of his comfort zone and dominate another league, it could might well be at City. Although nobody in their right mind could scrutinise the legend that is Lionel Messi even if he remains a one-team man throughout his playing days.
The next potential suitors could be Paris Saint-Germain, who can no doubt match City toe-to-toe in terms of financial power. The French giants, like their English counterparts, are desperate for a Champions League trophy and luring in Messi could be a giant leap towards becoming the best in Europe.
Another subplot in that potential deal is the coming together of Neymar and Messi. Their camaraderie is surely missed at Barcelona and the Argentine would be ecstatic to link up with his fellow winger once again. The Parisians could be a formidable force with the likes of Lionel Messi in their ranks.
Even Inter Milan have been repeatedly linked with Messi throughout the years, and more or so in the recent past. Noises from the Nerazzurri are claiming that the deal is not a “forbidden dream”, as they want to resume his rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo in Italy.
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Could Lionel Messi head to a different continent altogether?
Although Lionel Messi would prefer staying in Europe, a move to the far east to either Japan or China, to the middle-east to Qatar, or to the far west to the United States of America should not be ruled out. Messi’s former teammates Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and David Villa all undertook those routes respectively.
As a sign of respect to Barcelona, the Argentine could jump continents to see out his illustrious career. He would not only get lucrative offers from the clubs of those countries but also plenty of love and affection. And for once he would play in an environment which is without the pressure and competitiveness that prevails in European football.
Even Barcelona legend Rivaldo, who backed Messi’s counterattacks on Abidal, said that the right-winger’s next stop could be either a club from “China or MLS”.
A final destination which would be almost out of a dream for Lionel Messi would be a return to his boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys. Messi spent his childhood days at the Argentinian club before packing his bags for Barcelona at the tender age of 13. Newell’s vice-president recently commented on a potential homecoming for Lionel Messi in the future.
“I don’t know if it’s impossible. It’s a decision exclusively made by him and his family. We have to have the best possible context to help make a decision,” Cristian D’Amico told TNT Sports.
“When [Diego] Maradona came to Newell’s, nobody thought that he would come either. I hope that something similar can happen with Leo.”
Lionel Messi himself was once confronted with this question of returning to his hometown Rosario, to which he replied:
“I have the dream of being able to play for Newell’s in Argentina, but I don’t know if it’s really going to happen because I have a family that is ahead of my desire.”
“It’s a dream I’ve had since I was little, but I have a family, I have three children, I live in a place that has given me everything and where I am calm and can give my children a spectacular future. I will try to convince the family, because today we have to convince the children too,” he added.
What seemed an unimaginable scenario a couple of years ago now looks like a distant possibility. The growing tensions at Barcelona could force Lionel Messi to exit the club, however, his loyalty for the badge could might as well give him the power to endure what possibly is the toughest phase of his career.
It is almost impossible to believe that Lionel Messi will ever don colours other that of the blue and garnet of Barcelona. In what has been an incredible journey at the club where he has almost transcended the football itself, it looks like it could come to a bitter conclusion come 2021.