It appears Lionel Messi’s spell at Barcelona is drawing to a close.
With his relationship persistently deteriorating with the club’s hierarchy, Messi expressed his desire to leave Barça this summer, stating that he’ll activate a clause to unilaterally end his contract.
Nevertheless, the gargantuan update was destined to spring transfer rumour mills into life regarding the 33-year-old’s next move, with an outrageous number of clubs linked in a matter of minutes.
Here’s the most ‘realistic’ selection of those destinations, ranked by likelihood.
The club were forced into sacking its whole scouting department and a bunch of kitmen just to fund a deal for free agent Willian, so you imagine they’ll have to sell the Emirates and play their games on Highbury Fields for the long-term if they’re to bring Messi to north London this summer.
Likelihood Rating: Impossible/10
6. Newell’s Old Boys
Nothing like a romantic return home to end the perfect fairytale. Newell’s Old Boys was the club where Messi spent his early years learning his trade, and the Argentine side were also his boyhood team. The superstar left Argentina to make his name in Europe, and with that, he was gone from the South American shores forever.
But what about a dramatic return to see out his career at the team who made him fall in love with the sport in the first place? Now that’s a happy ending…maybe a few years down the line, however.
Likelihood Rating: 1/10
5. Manchester United
Step aside, Jadon Sancho, one of the greatest to ever play the game is on the market.
Remarkably, Spanish news outlet Cuatro reported before Messi’s recent shenanigans that United had put the ‘machinery in motion’ to bring the 33-year-old to Old Trafford. Yeah, alright mate. It seems pretty far-fetched for the Red Devils to stray away from a £108m deal for Sancho and instead fund a move for a player currently earning almost £1m-a-week at Barcelona.
Not. Going. To. Happen.
Likelihood Rating: 2/10
In terms of squad-building, a player of Messi’s profile and position couldn’t be further from what Chelsea need right now. But when it’s Lionel Messi, squad dynamics are blown out of the water.
The Blues have invested heavily this summer to bring in Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell to Stamford Bridge along with soon-to-be signings Kai Havertz, Thiago Silva and Malang Sarr, so you simply can’t rule Roman Abramovich out. Could Frank Lampard’s plucky Blues be up to something gargantuan?
Probably not, to be honest.
Likelihood Rating: 3/10
Messi’s desire to win his first Champions League crown since 2015 is surely a major factor in his decision to quit Barcelona, with the Catalans currently boasting a squad which he clearly doesn’t deem fit to go all the way in Europe’s premier competition – especially with Bartomeu at the helm.
So, what better place for his next venture than Paris Saint-Germain (other than Bayern, of course)?
Despite their slender defeat to the Bavarians in the final, Les Parisiens proved in Lisbon that they’ve overcome their European inferiority complex and through shrewd business last summer and Thomas Tuchel’s superb coaching, they’ve finally established a healthy equilibrium of supreme individualism and functionality in their squad.
Likelihood Rating: 5/10
Picture it: Juventus vs. Inter. Messi vs Ronaldo. Scudetto on the line. A pair of Last Dances and the greatest sports documentary ever produced.
This is the dream, right?
Sure, a Messi x Antonio Conte collaboration may well be the most unlikely of relationships but hey, ‘The Godfather’ made it work with Eden Hazard.
Allow Steven Zhang to pull the strings. Chuck Lautaro the other way. Chelsea 2016/17-esque 3-4-3. Conte shouting relentlessly at Messi from the sidelines like he’s Emanuele Giaccherini at RWB for nine months.
Likelihood Rating: 6/10
1. Manchester City
The early favourites for Messi’s signature for two reasons: first, they have an unhealthy amount of cash and, of course, Pep Guardiola, the man who initiated the greatest – and perhaps most revolutionary – position switch of the modern era by deploying the already great Messi as a false nine.
And after eight years apart, could the finest manager and footballer of their time reunite for one last hurrah?
Original ‘can 33-year-old Lionel Messi cut it in the Premier League?’ debates will inevitably be sparked and argued between Paul Merson and Tim Sherwood for hours on end, but come on, this is Lionel Messi we’re talking about here.
Despite the dreaded ‘physicality and intensity of English football’, Pep and the Etihad appear the most likely destination for the greatest to ever do it.
Likelihood Rating: 7/10
RELATED STORY: Messi tells Barcelona he wants to leave the club
Edited by Tiyani wa ka Mabasa