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What’s next for Lionel Messi

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Lionel Messi has always been the most frequent name in the headlines but for the past few months, the reasons were different. Barcelona’s 2020-21 campaign came to a humiliating end and the Catalans finished their season with an 8-2 defeat against Bayern, failing to win any silverware.

The Lionel Messi exit rumours began shortly and this created a substantial buzz in the sports world. Thousands of cules had gathered outside Camp Nou even past the midnight, pleading their God not to leave the paradise. The footballing cult, had already hinted his exit due to the strained relationship with former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu and former manager Quique Setien. Though both of them were eventually forced their way out of Barcelona, it seems Messi still wants to leave his beloved club. 

What stopped Messi from leaving last season?

Messi had signed his last contract in 2017, extending his services for Barcelona till the end of 20-21 season. The release clause tagged with the new contract was a massive 630 million pounds, which no club can afford without violating the financial fair play rules. But his lawyers were clever enough to insert another clause that allowed Messi to leave before the end of each season; if he notifies the club before the 10th of June about the departure. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the domestic, as well as the European season, were stretched till August.

Messi’s legal team assumed that the player could walk away for free as the deadline for notification was stalled under special circumstances. Contrary to their hopes, the contract was legally interpreted favourably to the club as per Article 17 of FIFA Transfer regulations.

Is Messi really going to leave?

This is not the first time that global media is celebrating Lionel Messi’s possible exit. Rumours linking the superstar with a move has surfaced every time his contract approached its end. The last time it appeared was on 2017 November, as Messi was reluctant to renew his contract till the last moment. The same saga had occurred in 2014 summer as well, as Barcelona failed to win any trophies under Tata Marino and Messi’s contract was approaching its final year. The multiple recurrences of this event had made many of the Barcelona fans believe that this is merely another media gimmick. 

When asked by La Sexta about a possible move, Messi responded that “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”. 
Unlike the previous occasions, Messi’s lawyers had sent a formal document to the Club in August, informing his desire to leave. Also, the star’s agents were on the verge of approaching the Court of Arbitration to facilitate his departure last September. Though Messi soothed the situation, by stating that he will not engage in a legal battle against his club, the odds favour the departure of the six-time Ballon D’or winner.

Can we watch Lionel Messi playing in a ‘cold rainy night in stoke’?

Manchester City emerged as the favourites to sign the footballing icon in the last transfer window. One cannot rule out Pep Guardiola’s desire to reunite with the best player he has ever coached. The Manchester club was heavily rumoured in September, to step-in and to pay a good sum to snatch Messi before he becomes a free agent next season. The speculations ended soon after Messi dropped the stage curtain. With Messi’s contract approaching the final six months and he is free to negotiate with other clubs, Pep Guardiola has refused to register any interest on the player. Pep defended the media probes by saying  
“He is a player for another club, I’m sorry. I don’t like to talk about players who are not here.”

With sharp weapons like Riyad Mahrez and Bernando Silva on the right wing, City is not really desperate to bring-in Messi. But Messi is always a class apart from any footballer in the world and City’s management would be relishing the fame and fan base Messi can draw to the Etihad. The mere transfer rumours linking Manchester city with Messi created an overnight surge in their social media followers. Imagine the crowd he could pull to the Etihad!

Messi’s arrival would definitely add to the glamour and viewership of Premier League as well. Even the player himself would be looking to settle an old personal score by proving that he can be successful in the so-called ‘toughest football league’ in the world.

Alternate Options:

Paris-Saint German:
The French counterpart of Manchester city, are also lured by the fame and quality Messi can bring-in. The appointment of Mauricio Pochettino has increased their odds in the Messi chase, as the fans expect Pochettino to contrive the “Argentine-connection”. Even Messi would be happy to team-up once again with his old pal, Neymar Jr. With Messi, Neymar and Mbappe leading the attack, PSG could become a lethal attacking force in European football.

Inter Milan:
The Italian Giants were in-fact the first club linked with Lionel Messi, even before the saga had emerged last August. The thread began with Italian daily, Gazzetta Dello sport publishing a news piece linking Messi with Inter Milan. The news article also contained the controversial picture, “Messiah” in Milan cathedral. Though the club CEO Antonello and manager Conte had completely dismissed the rumours, it’s not yet time to rule out them from the race.

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