It’s happening, isn’t it? Last night FC Barcelona dropped the mother of bombshells, which is still reverberating, when they sensationally — without any warning — that Lionel Messi will no longer be playing for them.
Speculation of a possible departure had been rife since last summer and now the unthinkable has come to pass after both parties couldn’t reach a financial agreement. The 34-year-old forward, who led Argentina to Copa America glory last month, becomes a free agent subsequently entering uncharted waters.
Thank you, Leo. pic.twitter.com/cdS9xWe8Me
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 5, 2021
A question we never thought possible: where could he possibly go? Well, given his undeniable status as one of the best to ever do it, Messi will not be short on suitors even if that number is slim given his monetary demands. Below are contenders to become his next destination; a dream option, realistic choice, and wildcard selection.
Dream: Manchester City
To be honest, whoever acquires Messi’s signature will be on cloud nine. Any coach that gets to manage him is a winner. And there’s no tactician more heavily associated with the Argentine forward than Pep Guardiola who is doing everything in his power to make Manchester City the premier club across European football. It was under Guardiola’s management that Messi took his game to a level unheard of, a level that enabled him to break records left and right, score 91 (NINETY-ONE) goals in 2012 and win every trophy available to the Spanish giants.
The best player in the world and (arguably) the best manager in the world working in tandem again to win City’s first European Cup? Guardiola would be licking his lips. He may have expressed a desire to see Messi spend his whole career at Barcelona, but how could he say no? After all, here is a player of whom Guardiola once said, “I would like to enter his brain”, a player he thinks of as “one of the most privileged, gifted athletes of all time.” Aside from anything, signing Messi would instantly solve his current penalty-taker conundrum, too.
Realistic: Paris Saint-Germain
With Messi reputedly on a basic salary worth £70m a year, there are only a few clubs who boast the financial muscle capable of capturing the Argentine genius. Among that elite selection is PSG, another institution desperate to lift the European Cup trophy, and it just so happens Messi will be around familiar faces if he does take his talents to Paris including former Barça partner-in-crime Neymar who hasn’t exactly been shy of letting his feelings known about reuniting with the six-time Ballon d’Or recipient.
Hmmmmm 👀 pic.twitter.com/yerThm7UHG
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) August 5, 2021
Ironically it was Messi who campaigned for Barça to resign Neymar a few summers ago, but those pleas fell on deaf ears and so, how does that old saying go: if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain. Could it therefore be Messi going the other way instead, to get two-thirds of the ‘MSN’ combo going again? To date they’ve played 161 games together and in those outings they’ve combined to score 56 goals with Neymar creating no fewer than 36 goals for Messi and in turn Messi provided 20 assists for Brazil’s soon-to-be record goalscorer.
Wildcard: Juventus or Chelsea
With Antonio Conte leaving Inter Milan after ending their 10-year Scudetto drought and the ramifications of that departure including potential departures of key personnel it could leave the door open for rivals Juventus to regain their crown. The Old Lady have already pulled off one mega transfer deal that shocked the world in Cristiano Ronaldo, could they pull off another? Juve are just one of the few clubs with pockets deep enough to actually pull this off. It is very unlikely, but just the thought these Ballon d’Or hoggers working together in tandem is surely the stuff dreams are made of? The million-dollar question is though: who’s on free-kick duty?
Speaking of those Inter players linked with a move away, none will be more felt if Romelu Lukaku says goodbye. The lethal Belgian marksman was responsible for 27% of the Nerazzurri’s goals in Serie A last season. His name in recent days has been heavily associated with a return to Chelsea, after it became clear Borussia Dortmund will not be entertaining any offers for Erling Haaland, but with this incredible opportunity could the powers that be at Stamford Bridge reverse course? The reigning European Champions have the financial means to lure Messi but in this brave new world could we realistically see him play for a Premier League club not called Man City?