It is nearly April and the January transfer window is long gone yet Lionel Messi is yet to extend his Paris Saint-Germain contract. The Argentina international returned to club action with the French champions and his form picked up after a slow return post-FIFA 2022 World Cup success. However, PSG have since crashed out of the UEFA Champions League and the Coupe de France. Messi, 36 in June, and Les Parisiens were though to be close to new terms shortly after Qatar ended. No extended Parc des Princes deal has been announced yet, though, with rumors linking him with moves elsewhere regularly surfacing. Inter Miami, Barcelona, Newell's Old Boys, and even Saudi Arabia have been touted as potential destinations. So, where are we at with knowing where Messi might be playing his soccer beyond the end of this current season?
Let's look at what we know.
When is Messi's contract up?
The former Barcelona man's current deal is up at the end of this campaign, so he is into the final six months of his contract which means that he is free to discuss potential moves with other clubs. It had been thought that PSG had an option to extend Messi's deal by an additional year but it appears that the Ligue 1 leaders would actually need to discuss fresh contractual details. You might recall that Messi receives part of his salary in cryptocurrency -- a soccer first at the time -- and terms such as those might need to be revised along with his basic pay and bonuses. The crypto aspect takes on greater importance when you consider that PSG reportedly need to slash their wage budget by 30% and could therefore consider letting one of Messi, Neymar, or Kylian Mbappe go. For PSG to even keep Messi on his same current rate, they will presumably have to factor out the devalued crypto part of his salary which would actually add to the overall total with Milan Skriniar also to be added to the books.
Why is it expiring?
Messi's form has been much better this term than in his first season as a player with the French capital outfit. The South American has been more productive and currently has 18 goals and 17 assists to his name with Les Parisiens. PSG went all-out to extend Mbappe's contract last year and have been limited financially since then so that is a significant economic consideration when debating Messi's future. However, as his dramatic late winner vs. Lille OSC and masterclass with Mbappe away at Olympique de Marseille proved recently in Ligue 1, the goat has still got it. Given that the first meeting between Messi's entourage have taken place and been led by his father, there is clearly still interest to keep him at Parc des Princes beyond this summer. CBS insider Fabrizio Romano told House of Champions on Monday that PSG's is the only firm offer Messi currently has in his hands.
Is Messi happy in Paris?
Despite a difficult adaptation period to life after Barca and Catalonia, Messi is happier now than he ever has been in France. Not only is his family settled but the man from Rosario is playing some of the best soccer of this later period of his career. Given how year two is going overall, it is no surprise that both PSG and Messi were open to a third campaign together. That does not automatically mean that there will be one, though. Champions League and Coupe de France failure has raised major questions over the French giants' project and who should be overseeing it. A return to Barcelona or Argentina could appeal while a new adventure entirely should not be ruled out just yet.
Might he go?
Of course, that is a possibility. At the end of the day, Messi is free to speak with other clubs who could put in an offer which the French giants would be powerless to prevent. However, 36 in a few months, the Argentine arguably only has one or two more moves left and one of those potentially being a return to childhood club Newell's Old Boys suggests that his next one will take him out of Europe. Is Messi ready to leave the UEFA Champions League just yet when he is still building a strong case for an eighth Ballon d'Or? That much is far from certain. Winning a FIFA Best award this week probably adds to the feeling that he still has a lot left to give at the top level which some mooted destinations are not. Gerardo Romero has claimed that Messi does not want to stay with PSG and is open to a Barca return which would require conditions to be met in order for it to happen. Given the change in tone around PSG since their loss to Bayern, it is no surprise that speculation has stepped up a notch.
Former club Barca and Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami have been strongly linked with moves but both present major hurdles. The Catalan giants remain in financial turmoil which was the reason why Messi was forced to leave Camp Nou in the first place. Messi was back in Barcelona recently, but his father Jorge doubts a return despite Xavi keeping the door "open" for Messi. Childhood club Newell's, though, appear to be lined up to be his final club -- if he ever goes home as a player. Recent scenes greeting him as he tried to eat in Buenos Aires and unfortunate events in his native Rosario could make Argentina impractical for family and safety reasons.
David Beckham's MLS franchise are very much in transition and would probably need a few more high-profile names in order to make the sporting aspect of any potential as attractive as the lure of the Miami lifestyle. One of those could be Sergio Busquets who has been heavily linked with the move which was not denied by head coach Phil Neville recently: "I am not going to deny (it and say) there is no truth in the speculation that we are interested in Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets. Since I joined Miami, I think we have been linked with Dani Alves, Robert Lewandowski, Willian, Cesc Fabregas, Luis Suarez. All of them you can rattle off." It has also been noted by the likes of the Miami Herald that Miami's No. 10 and No. 5 shirts are currently available -- Messi and Busquets' habitual jersey preferences. Coincidentally, Inter Miami single-game tickets for July, August, and September games are "in the works" according to the franchise website and Ticketmaster who tell visitors to "check back!" Commissioner Don Garber has even been talking up MLS' ability to get 'flexible' in order to bring Messi to the U.S.
What is likeliest?
Reading between the lines, another year or so in Europe still appears to be the most probable solution for Messi's future right now. However, the speculation keeps going up a few notches and is now close to fever pitch regarding Miami and MLS. If it is literally a question of where he plays his soccer next season, then it makes little to no sense to potentially only move somewhere else for a single campaign when his PSG move needed his second term to hit form. Talks between Messi and PSG are taking place and could result in an agreement for Messi to continue with the French champions for at least one more year before moving on. An extension of one to two years would be music to Ligue 1's ears given his importance in potentially helping to secure a new and improved international and domestic TV deal. Then again, it depends on PSG's potential Champions League fate against Bayern Munich as well as the financial ramifications of potentially staying on -- especially with an injured Neymar difficult for the French champions to shift.