Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona – but where will he go next?

Lionel Messi is on the verge of leaving Barcelona (Getty Images)

On Tuesday night Lionel Messi shocked the sporting world. 

Fed up with a Barcelona side in decline for several years, the Argentinian, who has been with the club since he was a teenager, announced that he was leaving Catalonia. 

Following the hiring of Dutch manager Ronald Koeman, Messi informed Barcelona’s management of his desire to leave the club, on a free transfer no less. 

The relationship between club and player appears to be in pieces with new manager Koeman and president Josep Maria Bartomeu both seemingly at odds with the most important player in the club’s history. 

Yesterday was the first of many steps towards a departure from the club, however, and the player’s time at Barcelona may not be up just yet – here’s everything you need to know about Messi’s potential move from the Nou Camp.

What did Lionel Messi say to Barcelona ? 

On Tuesday night Lionel Messi sent a burofax to the club informing them of his desire to leave the club. A burofax is a formal and recorded letter which provides proof of delivery.

The Argentinian had told new manager Ronald Koeman, formerly of Everton and Southampton, that he “felt more out than in”, according to RAC1 Radio. 

Barcelona are said to have replied to the forward insisting that they want him to stay. 

Could Messi leave Barcelona for free?

Remarkably, Lionel Messi, arguably the most valuable player in the world, could leave Barcelona for free. 

It was revealed last night that the Barcelona captain’s contract contains a clause in his contract that allows him to leave the club for free, but only if he communicates that decision. 

The club claim that this clause expired at the end of May, but Messi’s legal team argue that due to the unprecedented conclusion to the 2019/20 season, the clause is still in effect until the end of August. 

How much would Messi cost?

Even if the clause isn’t in effect, Barcelona could be forced to offload the star.

The Argentinian has one year left on his current contract, and though the club are protected by a £692m release clause, the club would likely be forced to listen to lower offers for fear of losing him for nothing at the end of the season. 

Will Lionel Messi leave Barcelona? 

Lionel Messi’s decision isn’t a bolt from the blue. 

Barcelona have been in decline for some time now, suffering embarrassing defeats to Roma, Liverpool and Bayern Munich in recent seasons and losing out on the La Liga title to an underwhelming Real Madrid side. 

The club have made a string of expensive and ineffective transfers in recent seasons, resulting in a squad not fit for purpose in the present nor the future. 

Lionel Messi has been public in his criticism of the club on and off the pitch, publicly criticising sporting director Eric Abidal for his sacking of Ernesto Valverde, and questioning whether his side were fit to defeat Napoli in the Champions League quarter-finals. 

The club are also saddled with a mountain of debt which could make selling Lionel Messi a necessary if unattractive proposition.

The public support of Carles Puyol and current star Luis Suarez on twitter suggests that the player has the blessing of his colleagues to move to pastures new. 

Who will he join?

Manchester City are the early favourites to sign the six-time Ballon d’Or winner. 

The Citizens are one of the few clubs who can afford Lionel Messi’s services and with former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola at the helm the Etihad may be an attractive destination for the 33-year-old. 

Txiki Begiristain, who served as sporting director at Barcelona from 2003 to 2010, is current director of football at the Etihad and, along with Guardiola, oversaw one of the most successful spells in the Catalan club’s history. 

PSG are also likely to be eyeing up a move for the restless forward. 

PSG ownership are likely to be hurting following their defeat in the Champions League, and the recruitment of Lionel Messi would likely go some way to easing that pain. 

Messi has previously played alongside the Parisians’ current star forward Neymar, but it’s well publicised that the Brazilian left Barcelona to move out of Messi’s shadow. 

Staying put at the Nou Camp is the most likely move according to the bookies however. 

Messi’s desire to leave the club appears to be genuine, but with the player who has brought them so much success set to leave, the club could be set to take drastic action in order to keep the forward, with the ousting of Josep Maria Bartomeu a move that would prove popular with fans, as well as the Argentinian. 

Lancaster Guardian