Lionel Messi has told Barcelona that he wants to leave, bringing an end to a career with the club that . It's a rather unceremonious end with his likely last game in a Barca shirt coming in an embarrassing 8-2 loss to eventual Champions League winners Bayern Munich.
At 33 years old, Messi's career isn't over, even if he's very much in the tail end of his prime. That's whyto thank him for his years at Barca. Any club that lands one of the greatest to ever play the sport is getting would be very lucky to do so, and, naturally, there are many that are pining for his services.
Here are some of the top landing spots for Messi to go to now that his time in Camp Nou appears to be over.
The Rich Clubs
Naturally, one of the biggest obstacles in getting Messi onto any club is the cost of his talents. Very few clubs around the world are able to afford him right off the bat, but that doesn't mean none of them can. Manchester City, for example, are reportedly looking into the situation and are viewed as the current odds-on favorite for where Messi will go next season.
Their UAE-backed ownership has more than enough money to afford the Argentine superstar, and it would also mean a reunion with former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, who was in charge for a predominant portion of Messi's La Liga success. Also on the English club's side is a report from ESPN on Monday that the club was crunching the numbers to bring the player over without breaching financial fair play.
Of course, you can't talk about rich clubs without bringing up the most famous in the world at this moment, Paris Saint-Germain. The Qatari-backed club has been poaching star players left and right with reckless abandon, most recently scooping up Neymar from Barcelona in one of the most expensive transfers in world history. A managerial reunion is one thing, but a reunion on the pitch with a former teammate who Messi has won many trophies with would certainly be a huge selling point.
Inter Milan is also in the mix here. Inter, who just finished runners-up in Europa League but also had their best season in Italy since 2010 -- are among the suitors that could entice Messi. The club's director of football is his former Argentina teammate Javier Zanetti, who is someone that the superstar maintains a good relationship with. Having sway with someone so high up in the pecking order surely would be a sell for someone whose fallout with his former club can be at least partially attributed to conflict with the front office. While ownership doesn't have the funds that City and PSG have, Suning Holdings Group surely has the capital to potentially make this a reality.
Messi's future hinges on his desire to continue playing in Europe. Something that he has mentioned in the past is how he wants to fairytale-like ending to his career with his childhood club, Newell's Old Boys. Perhaps it would help Barcelona in their desire to sell him if his goal is just to bring his time as a player to an end in his home country. Such returns have happened before such as with Carlos Tevez heading to Boca Juniors at just 31 back in 2015, just a couple months removed from scoring 29 goals for Juventus.
That being said, how he'd be received upon his return remains an interesting factor in this as he's been harshly criticized by Argentine press in the past for his lack of national team success. He's also cited his family and the radical Argentine fandom as reasons why he's apprehensive of such a move.
"On a sporting level, the match is the same, but people in Argentina are crazier about that issue. Not winning the Clasico means a lot. Here you want to win but, if you lose, nothing happens. There, you can't leave your house if you lose," he told TYC Sports in 2019.
The fairytale return might very well be just as fictional as the name implies.
If Argentina was a long shot, this one is even more so, but Messi heading to Major League Soccer is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Once again, there's some precedent. David Beckham moving to Los Angeles Galaxy back in 2007 is an example of a player with one of the largest celebrities in the world coming to the United States to play. Naturally, this would be so much bigger than that, but Beckham being in an ownership position at Inter Miami means there's someone with knowledge of how to try and get one of the biggest to come to that league. Financially speaking, the money could be there with the upcoming 2026 World Cup, and it would absolutely skyrocket with his presence in the league.
The last time one of the greatest to ever play the game came to America in such a capacity was when Pele played for the New York Cosmos in the 1970s. We're approaching 50 years since that happened, and, barring an incredible bout of negotiation from Beckham's Miami, it's likely that streak will continue.