Is Lionel Messi really leaving Barcelona?
It’s definitely starting to look that way.
We’ve talked about the possibility on this site a few times. However, it never seemed to me like Lionel Messi’s last game with Barcelona would be that 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in this year’s Champions League quarterfinal.
Or at least it did not until early this afternoon, when reports from Argentina (TyC Sports and Olé) — and other places — emerged saying Messi had contacted the club via “burofax” to tell them he wants the final year on his contract rescinded.
This is, without question, the biggest story in soccer in several years.
Also, I won’t be the only one point this out, but this would be the most consequential fax in sports history, topping Michael Jordan’s “I’m back.”
The headline from Argentina’s TyC Sports read, “BOMBA: Lionel Messi le comunicó a Barcelona que se quiere ir” (“Bombshell: Lionel Messi communicated to Barcelona that he wants to leave”). Tons of other global sports outlets immediately chimed in shortly after the news appeared to break in Argentina, with ESPN’s Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens writing under the headline, “Messi tells Barcelona he wants to leave – sources.”
Lionel Messi to Manchester City?
If Messi leaves, where will he go?
This will get complicated in myriad ways. But let’s start with what has to happen for Messi to be on another team for the ’20-21 season.
The 33-year-old’s contract runs until next summer, and his release clause is currently set at 700 million euros ($828M), which seems prohibitive, even for a Manchester City or a PSG. Could Barcelona, realizing his days with the club are almost certainly numbered — barring a miraculous turnaround this season — agree to sell him? There’s suddenly reason to believe that might be a possibility.
From ESPN’s Marsden and Llorens:
“Some board members have told ESPN they would be open to selling if Messi were to push hard enough for a move and if it allowed [Manager Ronald] Koeman more funds to invest in the rebuild of the squad.”
Today’s news follows reports last week that Messi indicated he “felt more in than out” at Barcelona in his first meeting with his would-be new manager, Koeman.
Messi has expressed his frustration with the club and its higher-ups before, as the Argentine’s reputation in his younger days for being a quiet, soft-spoken star is thoroughly outdated at this point. Tuesday’s news, however, represents by far the closest he has ever come to leaving the club he joined in September of 2000.
While Juventus gets some mention as a destination, again, the two truly viable candidates are Manchester City and PSG. Oddsmakers agree. They have City (around +200) and PSG (around +500) as leading contenders.
Could he change his mind?
It’s worth noting here that Messi famously briefly retired from the Argentine national team in June ’16, only to rejoin that dysfunctional group in August of that year. This absolutely seems different to me, especially considering he reportedly communicated this decision to his club 11 days after that blowout loss to Bayern.
What can Barcelona do to appease him?
Plenty has been written about the issues the Barcelona front office has had under President Josep Maria Bartomeu over the last couple years, with one scandal after another since January. Would his resignation — less than a year before he’ll be stepping down during next March’s election of a new club board — make Messi change his mind? Who knows, but you better believe that’s the subject of a million conversations in Catalonia right now, among everyone from the most influential to the least influential stakeholders associated with the club. The only guarantee is that the rumors will be flying at a breakneck pace over the next 24-48 hours.
Seriously though, Messi to Man City?
The chatter we at High Press Soccer are hearing from the agent world is that Pep Guardiola’s team is his planned destination.
There were also rumors last week that Real Madrid could pursue him, but for many reasons that isn’t viable.
Inter Milan has been linked too. However, Messi’s ties to Man City makes more sense. Could Messi really chose the grind of the Premier League over the waltz of PSG’s schedule in Ligue 1?