Lionel Messi’s future promises to be one of the great storylines of the summer transfer window as his departure from Paris Saint-Germain is a near-certainty.
With less than a couple of months left to run on his lucrative contract at the Parc des Princes and no signs of a breakthrough in extension talks, the 2022 World Cup winner seems set for a new adventure.
Partnered with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, Messi has laid the foundation for a landmark season for PSG as they’re on the cusp of winning a record-breaking 11th Ligue 1 title.
However, that will likely be the 35-year-old’s farewell present to the Paris faithful, with the record seven-time Ballon d’Or winner set to wave goodbye to the club in rather unpleasant circumstances.
As reported by Sky Sports, Les Parisiens have suspended the Argentina captain for two matches after he took an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia.
Though Messi asked the club to let him travel to the Middle East, having twice postponed a scheduled promotional trip there, but he never received the green light.
Despite seeing his request turned down by the Parc des Princes powerbrokers, he took the trip anyway on Sunday, resulting in the club fining him two weeks’ wages.
Having tarnished his relationship with PSG for good, he now looks closer than ever to severing ties with French football after only two years, with Barcelona waiting in the wings to welcome the prodigal son back.
But while the prospect of a romantic reunion with the Blaugrana warms the hearts of everyone close to the Spotify Camp Nou outfit, Messi’s future could easily lie elsewhere.
After all, his recent visit to Saudi Arabia may haven’t only had a commercial purpose but rather a much deeper background, such as rekindling his iconic rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo.
There’s also a third possibility. And though it seems the most far-fetched of all alternatives, gracing Premier League football in the autumn of his glittering career could be Messi’s final undertaking.
Let’s take a closer look at the Argentine’s potential landing spots.
While there’s no shred of doubt Camp Nou still has a special place in Messi’s heart, the cost of the operation could prove prohibitive for the Spaniards amid the club’s Financial Fair Play deadlock with La Liga.
If it’s only up to Barcelona president Joan Laporta, the best player in the Catalan side’s history would’ve been on a plane to the Iberian Peninsula yesterday, but it’s not that simple.
Xavi Hernandez’s men are inches away from wrestling domestic supremacy back from Real Madrid, with the former midfielder building a core of up-and-coming talents at Camp Nou.
Signing a veteran star, such as Messi, despite his tremendous impact on and off the pitch, could slow down Barca’s reconstructing process, not to mention the effect his contract would have on their finances.
As the third highest-paid player in Ligue 1, one of the world’s greatest players could induce further havoc amid Laporta’s bid to balance the book and get Barcelona off the hook.
From the fans’ standpoint, Messi’s return to La Liga makes perfect sense since it would allow him to hang up his boots at the club he almost single-handedly carried to prominence in the past 15 years.
But from the financial aspect and, more importantly, Xavi’s effort to create a new golden generation, the Argentine’s blockbuster comeback may be more of a burden.
Saudi Pro League
Ever since Al-Nassr convinced Ronaldo to drop his European legacy and switch to Riyadh, the Saudi Pro League has started to get more and more attention.
As recently admitted by Saudi Arabia’s sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, Ronaldo’s arrival could be the first of many high-profile deals the Saudi Pro League clubs are planning for the future.
When Ronaldo left Madrid to join Juventus in 2018, it marked the end of an era when his rivalry with Messi was the headline story of every European football season.
Five years later, the two best players of their generation could have one last dance against each other, but this time, the Middle East could be their playing ground.
Imagine what kind of worldwide attention would Messi’s move to the Saudi Pro League generate, especially with Ronaldo waiting for him to exchange courtesies one last time.
And unlike Barcelona, the Saudis don’t care about money – they have it in abundance.
Last but not least, the Premier League has an outside chance of watching Messi at work first-hand, even though it would only be in his twilight years after he won everything there was to win in football.
If you look at Ronaldo, he set the benchmark high after winning three of Europe’s top-five leagues, doing this in La Liga, Premier League and Serie A.
After a trophy-laden spell in Spain, Messi won the Ligue 1 title in his first season at PSG, but conquering the Premier League, especially at this stage of his career, would be a standout achievement.
Maybe the concept of equalising Ronaldo’s record could be tempting enough to make the diminutive playmaker ditch his love for Barcelona and the Arabian petrodollars to have a taste of English football.
With Pep Guardiola in charge of Manchester City, the Etihad Stadium is a destination that first springs to mind when thinking of Messi’s move to the Premier League.
Although the Spaniard constantly refused to acknowledge his ambition to work with his ex-Barcelona pupil in the past, all pieces may have fallen into place to accommodate their long-overdue reunion this summer.
There is a feeling that if Messi decides to ply his trade in the Premier League, no other club but Man City would be his choice, though there’s no shortage of seductive landing spots.
Despite Manchester United’s struggle to stay on top after Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure a decade ago, Old Trafford is as charming as it used to be during the legendary manager’s time at the club.
And there’s always Newcastle United, a club catapulted into the Premier League elite by a massive cash influx that will likely return to the Champions League after a two-decade absence.
Barcelona will undoubtedly use every tool at their disposal to make the dream of Messi’s return to Camp Nou become a reality.
However, whether it’s achievable is open to debate, which brings us to this point.
It will all be up to Messi and whether he wants to add to his staggering bank account or prove his doubters he can shine in the toughest league on the planet.
We bet everyone would like to see him choose the second option.
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