Lionel Messi's decision to leave Barcelona has sent shockwaves across the world of football, with the Argentine star edging closer to a stunning exit. A series of events on and off the pitch have reportedly contributed towards his decision, which is believed to be an irreversible one as things stand.
Barcelona are in complete disarray and have their work cut out for them to become a force in Europe once again, as they look to rebuild the squad under new manager Ronald Koeman. However, it seems unlikely that Messi will be a part of it, having announced his decision to quit the club immediately.
The 33-year-old reportedly has a clause in his contract that allows him to unilaterally terminate his contract and walk for free at the end of each season. Messi and his representatives are adamant that they are well within their rights to demand a free transfer due to the aforementioned condition, while Barcelona are standing firm on the fact that the clause expired earlier this year.
Lionel Messi and Barcelona at a crossroads
A legal battle could ensue between the two parties if they are unable to reach a compromise about Messi's contract, with his current deal set to expire in the summer of 2021. Only a handful of clubs can afford to sign the Barcelona talisman even if the Catalan giants agree to let him go for free, as the 33-year-old is the highest-paid player in world football currently.
News about Messi's exit is sure to dominate the back pages in the coming weeks and the issue is unlikely to be resolved swiftly. However, as things stand, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has decided to leave Barcelona this summer and it remains to be seen if a sensational transfer comes to fruition.
Here are five clubs that could sign Lionel Messi this summer ranked in the increasing order of likelihood.
#5 Stay at Barcelona
The Catalan club's president has come under immense scrutiny in recent seasons for his failure to make Barcelona a force to be reckoned with in Europe, while it has also been reported that he does not enjoy a good personal relationship with the players.
Once seen as the gold standard in Europe under Pep Guardiola, Barcelona look like a shadow of their former selves and are in complete disarray on and off the pitch. The Blaugrana are in desperate need of a rebuild and cannot afford to lose a talismanic figure like Messi, who is arguably the greatest footballer of all time.
Reports have emerged that Barcelona organized an emergency meeting yesterday to reevaluate the situation, with Bartomeu believed to be on the verge of an exit. If the situation changes swiftly in the coming days, Messi could also change his mind about an exit and commit his long-term future to Barcelona.
Over the years, Juventus have snapped up several high-profile players on free transfers, with Aaron Ramsey being their most recent acquisition last summer.
The prospect of signing Lionel Messi and pairing him up with arch-rivals Cristiano Ronaldo will not only take world football by storm, but also ensure that the deal goes down in the history books for changing the landscape of things in world football.
Messi and Ronaldo have won a staggering 11 Ballon d'Or awards between them and have consistently remained at the top of the game for over a decade, while their rivalry in La Liga shaped a new era in world football. Juventus are also in need of a rebuild, with Andrea Pirlo replacing Maurizio Sarri at the helm.
While Messi, at the age of 33, is probably not a long term solution, it is unfathomable to think that a club of Juventus' stature will not consider making a move for him, least of all if he's allowed to leave on a free transfer.
Also Read: 5 worst Barcelona managers of all time