Lionel Messi has been the mainstay of Barcelona FC’s meteoric success, leading the team to unprecedented success both in Spain and on the continent, and capturing his record sixth FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2019. However, with the managerial merry-go-round spinning out of control at the Nou Camp this season, there’s a very real danger that arguably the best player in the world could be unsettled enough to leave the club he signed a professional contract with on his eighteenth birthday.
Subheader: What caused the unrest?
Despite Messi attempting to calm unrest, speculation has never been so rife about the possibility of him leaving his home of 20 years. Things began to get heated when former teammate, and now Barcelona Sporting Director, Éric Abidal blamed unnamed players for this season’s drop in form. This sparked a heated reaction from Messi, who thought Abidal should name names if he was going to make accusations.
However, the flames of discontent were being fanned long before Abidal’s slip of the tongue. Messi was reportedly unhappy that the club failed to re-sign Neymar from PSG, a failure further compounded by long term injuries sidelining both Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembélé. With Antoine Griezmann still not hitting his stride, Messi has been left to carry the team even more than usual.
Subheader: What would life at the Nou Camp look like without Messi?
Barcelona needn’t look further than their main La Liga rivals for an example of how an outfit deals with having its star player ripped from the heart of the team. When Cristiano Ronaldo left to join Juventus, Real Madrid suffered a torrid drop in form that, despite riding high in this year’s La Liga, many would argue they are yet to recover from. Every Barcelona fan knows they’re judged against Europe’s elite teams rather than their domestic rivals, and without Messi few pundits would put them in the same bracket as the likes of Liverpool, Man City, Bayern Munich or Juventus.
One thing is for sure: the Argentine leaving the Nou Camp would send shockwaves through both the European and Spanish games, making for interesting La Liga odds for the rest of this season and the next.
Subheader: Where could Messi go?
Incredibly, there’s a very real risk that Messi could leave Barcelona on a free transfer in the summer, due to a clause in his contract, although a yearly salary rumoured to be in the range of €50 million means any club looking to sign him would still require deep pockets. The most obvious destination would be Manchester City, where he could reunite with Pep Guardiola, as the Catalan manager rebuilds his squad after coming a distant second to Liverpool this term. Pep has been at pains to say that Messi should finish his career at Barcelona, but who knows what the summer will bring?
With more money than anyone could possibly need swimming in his bank account, there’s little reason for Messi to cash out on his career. Were he tempted to, however, then Paris could be a likely destination, especially seeing as the aforementioned Neymar and Mbappe would welcome him with open arms. An even more outlandish move could be a linkup with David Beckham’s Inter Miami, or former teammate Xavi, who now plies his trade in Qatar.
As the summer transfer window nears there’s no doubt that speculation will continue to whirl around the future of the player many regard as the GOAT, but in an era where fickle players swap club loyalty for big money transfers, it’s comforting to know that Messi’s most likely next move will be to sign a new contract at the Nou Camp.