The Hard Tackle draws up the list of three likeliest destinations for Lionel Messi after the confirmation of his departure from Barcelona.
The footballing world was dealt with a bombshell on Thursday afternoon when FC Barcelona revealed the final stance on Lionel Messi’s contract situation. The club legend was out of contract at Camp Nou for the first time this summer, though he was initially expected to pen a new deal just after Copa America.
However, in an official statement, Barcelona have confirmed that the renewal of Messi is not a possibility anymore, owing to economic restrictions put in place by the Spanish footballing federation.
“Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of Spanish LaLiga regulations on player registration. As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled,” the club confirmed.
The failure to secure a renewal marks the end of a 21-year spell at Catalonia for Lionel Messi, leaving him without a club with just over a week remaining before the new season in Europe gets underway. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at three of the likeliest destinations for the Argentine international as he looks to take an unprecedented next step in his career.
Premier League is always an option for Lionel Messi, as there are multiple English clubs who can realistically afford the Argentine footballing icon. But while Manchester City, Manchester United were initial options, Chelsea are better fitted to sign the forward given the fact that they are yet to make any notable moves in the transfer market so far.
Indeed, Manchester United have already splashed the cash on Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, while Man City have recently brought in Jack Grealish. They are also in the race to sign Harry Kane, with the English champions clearly set on sustaining their success for the long term.
However, one club that can still afford to spend the silly money in the market for Messi is Chelsea. Coming on the back of a successful 2020/21 campaign, the Blues are on the rise under the management of Thomas Tuchel.
But despite the presence of talented midfielders and playmakers, they lack the services of a proper goalscorer, with Timo Werner struggling in his first season at Stamford Bridge. Such a void could compel Roman Abramovich to break the bank for Messi, who could be an ideal addition in Chelsea’s attacking setup, alongside Kai Havertz and Mason Mount.
From a tactical perspective, Manchester City are better suited for Messi than Chelsea, but Tuchel can always tweak his system to accommodate the Argentine into his setup that usually requires a lot of work rate and aggression from the centre forwards.
That said, Chelsea have to offload a bunch of unwanted players and a few of their star players, including Werner and Hakim Ziyech, if they are to afford Messi, whose wage demands may cripple the club’s current financial structure. It is, though, fair to suggest that the west London giants are indeed one of the clubs involved in the chase to sign the ex-Barcelona player this summer.
If Messi desires to leave Europe, Major League Soccer is always an option, along with his old club Newell’s Old Boys. But with the 34-year-old still in the peak of his powers, a return to his native Argentina remains unlikely. This is where MLS edged ahead, and though the league has a wage cap, there are multiple clubs that can afford to sign the forward.
Perhaps the most favourite American outfit to secure the services of Messi is Inter Miami. Owned by English footballing legend David Beckham, Inter Miami are fairly new to the MLS but have already brought in a host of star players, including former Argentine international Gonzalo Higuain.
The team is also coached by Phil Neville, the former assistant manager at Valencia. Although Messi does run the danger of falling out of favour when it comes to winning European trophies and individual awards, in case of a move to the USA, it might not bother him too much, having won almost everything in his career.
The footballing world, too, is bracing itself for the change of an era as the likes of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe look to take centre stage, becoming the next great rivalry in football. Messi, on that note, may rather enjoy his spell in the city of Miami, which has a large Hispanic community that may help him quickly settle in.
The Argentine himself owns a house in Miami and had been on a trip to Florida during the summer break, right after his Copa America. Therefore, it would be unwise to rule out Inter Miami as a potential destination for Lionel Messi this summer.
While Chelsea and Inter Miami are credible destinations, perhaps the favourites to secure the services of Lionel Messi this summer are Paris Saint-Germain. He was already pictured alongside some of the PSG stars recently, just the few days prior to Barcelona’s confirmation.
Already home to some of the biggest names in world football, including Neymar, Sergio Ramos and Kylian Mbappe, Messi could be the final piece of the jigsaw for the Ligue 1 giants, in their attempts to not only recoup for the French league title but also in the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history.
What makes PSG such an appealing destination for the 34-year-old is the luxury it offers. While the prospect of living in the city of Paris is a lifetime dream for any football, the club can also afford the player’s lucrative wages and perhaps even more, thanks to the outside funding of Qatari oligarch Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
In recent years, PSG have been under the radar of UEFA due to Financial Fair Play regulations. But in light of the European Super League debacle earlier in the year, the footballing body has eased such regulations, to an extent, though Les Parisiens may still have to offload some key players, including Julian Draxler, Pablo Sarabia and Mauro Icardi.
From a sporting perspective, this should not be too much of a problem as neither of these three players were considered to be vital in the first place. However, the club may have difficulties finding a suitor due to the current financial climate.
As for Messi, he should definitely relish the prospect of playing alongside his old Barcelona pal Neymar as well as one of the world’s best young players in Mbappe, forming the new look PSG attack that will hope to take the European football by storm next season, with added leadership from former Real Madrid icon Sergio Ramos.