Speculation about Lionel Messi’s future was swirling before his team endured a Brazil-in-2014-esque nightmare on Friday afternoon vs. Bayern Munich.
And the rumor mill is in ever high gear completely out of control now, as Barcelona appears poised to move on from a number of key veterans. Or maybe they just do what they’ve done in previous summers: bring back Sergio Busquets and Co., and add another $100M striker they can’t afford. With these guys, you can never rule that out.
This whole situation is unbelievably complicated and unpredictable due to the club’s financial issues, the uncertainty around the club’s board (and President Josep Maria Bartomeu) as well as the fact that Messi just turned 33.
I honestly think the Argentine will remain in Barcelona for one more season, but throwing out a few possible destinations sounds like a lot more fun (and makes for a better read) than staying boring and logical at a time like this!
*Note: A move to MLS, the Chinese Super League or back to Argentina – or *gasp* retirement is probably only slightly less far-fetched than the following – but he wouldn’t leave Barcelona for a globally irrelevant (or at least non-Champions League) club at the peak of his powers, would he?? God I hope not.
The teams below are listed in alphabetical order because … I’m admittedly copping out on which is most likely.
The Argentine’s interest in playing with 22-year-old countryman Lautaro Martinez is the biggest reason Inter could be in the mix. The Serie A club should have reached the knockout rounds of this year’s UCL, as it never should have drawn Slavia Prague on Matchday 1 of group play, and also had a golden opportunity to get three points vs. what was essentially Barcelona’s second XI on Matchday 6. Anyway, these guys already looked like a Champions League quarterfinalist-type squad for most of year one under Antonio Conte, as Romelu Lukaku and Martinez nearly unseated Juve atop Serie A.
Messi would be joining a contender with room for him up top. Or at least the fit alongside Lukaku and Martinez would seemingly work better than trying to jam him into City’s or PSG’s already-stacked attack. I should, however, acknowledge here that whoever he would join would obviously do whatever he wanted to accommodate him.
Other reasons I think Inter makes as much sense as anyone? 1. He’d get to resume his rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo with a couple head-to-head battles per year. 2. Serie A is a league where two guys in their 30s (Ronaldo and Lazio’s Ciro Immobile) just scored over 30 goals. 3. In Milan, he’d be trading in one massive market/desirable city for another.
Did I just talk myself into Messi playing for Antonio Conte???
There are some pretty compelling reasons Messi should not make this move, but between the chance to reunite with Pep Guardiola and the opportunity to showcase himself in the best league on the planet, a case for this move could certainly be made.
The flip side of the “opportunity to showcase himself” argument is that playing in a league this deep and physical for the final years of your peak seems a little counterintuitive. He’s also not exactly starved for attention as is, but hopefullt the EPL > La Liga point makes some sense.
I also think telling your wife and kids you were moving the family from Barcelona to Manchester would be slightly less painful than watching Bayern Munich steamroll you on the biggest stage.
So why am I mentioning City anyway? $$$. Nobody (besides maybe the next team on this list – are you spotting the trend?) can spend quite like High Press Soccer’s beloved franchise, which is why we have to consider this a possibility.
Of the three I’m listing, though, I believe this is the least likely, for what that’s worth.
We’ve got to keep this list to the absurdly wealthy, and no one’s pockets are much deeper than the Parisians’. In addition to landing in a city big enough for a star of his caliber, Messi would join a team with a slew of attacking talent.
Adding Messi would surely mean no more Mauro Icardi and/or Angel di Maria. Let’s worry about how this would actually work at a later date, though. Other than Luis Suárez, few players have complemented Messi better than Neymar up top. It’s hard to imagine what these guys would do together in Ligue 1. Could two teammates both rack up 30 goals and 20 assists in one season?
Also, did I really just entertain Messi’s potential fit for this long without asking what happens with Mbappe? That is a hell of a question.
But maybe PSG could trot out all three next season. Next summer, they could sell Mbappe to Real Madrid, then use that money to replace Messi when that day comes. I should probably stop now, but with PSG’s resources, anything seems possible.