It’s the news that will dominate the headlines for the coming weeks – Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona.
After spending his entire career with Los Cules, the Argentinian is in the market for a move, and if he gets his way, it could be a free transfer to anywhere he fancies.
But who can afford his astronomical wages, image rights and everything else that comes with signing one of the greatest players of all time?
Here’s five possible destinations for Leo….
We’ll start with the one that seems like the most logical destination – the Etihad.
Think about it – which other club around the world is most similar to Barcelona? Manchester City have Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, both former Barca board members, and have the small matter of Pep Guardiola as manager.
It’s common knowledge that Messi is sick of how things are ran at the Camp Nou, so looking across at Manchester City, batting away FFP rules like it’s nothing, winning two out of the last three Premier League’s and getting closer to the Champions League each year, looks very appealing.
Hell, they even play 4-3-3, so he could easily slot into the side on either the right wing, or the position Guardiola practically created for him – the false 9 role.
City (and specifically Guardiola) have said publicly that they aren’t interested in signing Messi, but they have to say that, such as the respect for Barcelona they have for the club. They’ve helped themselves to their hierarchy over the years, so there’s always going to be respect there.
But now Leo could be a free agent, and the game has changed. Make no mistake about it, Manchester City are number one in the queue for his services.
Just imagine it – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the same team.
It’s the stuff you only see on FIFA/PES Career Mode, but there’s half a chance it could happen in real life if Juventus can muster up the funds.
Juve are the kings of the free transfer. Dani Alves, Aaron Ramsey, Fabio Cannavaro, Andrea Pirlo and Adrien Rabiot have all joined the Old Lady on free deals over the years, so a move for Messi will certainly get them thinking if he manages to negotiate his exit with Barcelona.
Here’s another thing that puts the Italian giants in a good position – their sponsors. Adidas manufacture Juventus’ kits and with Messi being an adidas athlete, the German sportswear giant could help out with the financial side of the deal, paying his image rights or even contributing towards his weekly wage, which is said to be €1.2m!
Obviously it’s a ridiculous ask considering they also pay Ronaldo a similar wage, so you’d think affording two of the GOAT’s simultaneously would be impossible, but with shirt sales and commercial opportunities, you never know what’s possible. Shift Ramsey’s reported £250k a week and Gonzalo Higuain’s wages from the books and you’re almost halfway there…
Big money needed to complete a deal? Call PSG.
The French champions are bankrolled by the Qatar royal family for god’s sake, so you’d assume they can stump up the cash required for Messi.
Think back a few years and you may remember Barcelona’s shirt sponsor being Qatar Foundation, so there may be links between the interested parties already.
Messi could also reunite with Neymar, something which he’s apparently wanted to do for some time (he was urging Barca to bring him back not long ago), and form a quite frankly ridiculous front three with him and Kylian Mbappe.
From a neutral perspective though, there’s something slightly underwhelming about Messi potentially joining the French league, as it seems a considerable drop from the level he’s been playing at for more than a decade, but money talks.
Al Sadd SC
If no European teams can stump up the cash to sign Messi, one team that doesn’t have to comply with FFP is Qatar. The reigning Qatari champions are managed by Xavi, which is their main attraction in any negotiations with Messi.
Xavi was tipped to become the new Barcelona manager when Quique Setien was sacked, but signed a contract extension instead to remain in the Middle East.
The former Spain midfielder is still good friends with Messi and could be key in talks, but whether or not the club have the funds to pull something like this off is another matter. They have just signed Santi Cazorla but with respect, this is a few levels above.
What better way to start a new MLS franchise than signing the best player in the world?
It’s a hell of a dream, but if any country can sustain Messi’s commercial demands it’s America. David Beckham’s club probably can’t afford anything near Messi’s wages, let alone everything else, but as with Juventus, maybe adidas can step in and balance the books somewhat.
If they pulled it off, it could also be a world record for a club forming and then going bankrupt. Good luck lads.
Obviously this won’t happen, but hear me out.
If, and it’s a bloody massive if, Newcastle United‘s takeover by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the Reuben Brothers and Amanda Staveley’s PCP group goes through, they will have ridiculous cash. The Premier League didn’t accept or reject the previous bid remember, the group walked away after months of silence, meaning they could conceivably come back to the table.
Mike Ashley and the group have both said the deal isn’t dead in the water and are working to revive it, but as we know with Newcastle, there’s a long way until that’s proven.
What better impact than a free agent Leo Messi?
It would also settle a debate as old as time – how would Paul Dummett and Leo Messi get on in the same team managed by Steve Bruce?