Where next for Lionel Messi - Manchester City, Chelsea, PSG, MLS or staying at Barcelona?
News that talks have broken down between Barca and Lionel Messi means the world's greatest ever player is now the world's greatest ever free agent. Planet Sport looks at where he might end up.
News that Lionel Messi’s two-decade stay at Barcelona is over will spark a flurry of interest among those clubs rich enough to compete for a man regarded by many as the greatest player of all time.
Messi had been expected to sign a new contract with Barca amid reports he would take a significant pay-cut to allow the deal to fall within league financial fair play rules.
However, it seems although the two parties wished to sign a new deal, “financial and structural obstacles”, notably La Liga regulations, led to talks breaking down.
It leaves Messi a free agent, albeit one with astronomical wage demands. Planet Sport weighs up the 34-year-old's possibilities.
Staying at Barcelona
After 20 years with Barcelona, during which he has collected 10 La Liga trophies, four Champions League crowns, seven Copa del Reys - not to mention scored a frankly ludicrous 672 goals in 778 appearances - many see it as inconceivable that he will ever be seen in another club's shirt.
The main sticking point has been Barca's need to reduce their wage bill by €200million to comply with financial fair play rules - which has made contract negotiations with arguably the world's best player somewhat tricky.
LATEST NEWS | Leo #Messi will not continue with FC Barcelona— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 5, 2021
City would have been the most likely destination for Messi - had they not just splashed out £100million on Jack Grealish.
It was under current City manager Pep Guardiola that Messi most flourished while at Barcelona - scoring almost a third of his goals (211) under his tutelage. The pair are close and Messi has described Pep as "the best coach in the world".
City have just lost Messi's Argentina team-mate Sergio Aguero (ironically to Barcelona), creating a glaring obvious vacancy up front and while Harry Kane had seemed the most likely target, the availability of Messi does put the cat among the pigeons somewhat.
Here is another club who could underwrite Messi's wages without undue concern.
The theory goes that the Argentine could be used sparingly during the Ligue 1 campaign and be rested and fully fit for the Champions League and World Cup next November.
He would get to link up with Neymar at the Parc des Princes, with whom he spent four years at Barcelona, as well as compatriot Angel Di Maria.
The thought of Kylian Mbappe and Messi in the same line-up is spine-tingling and terrifying for Ligue 1 defenders in equal measure.
There's another possible 'pull' factor in boss Mauricio Pochettino, a fellow Argentine who said when questioned about a possible move for Messi on his appointment in January: "At Paris Saint-Germain any big player in the world is, I think, welcome."
Any MLS club
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's stunning impact on the MLS (52 goals in 56 games in two years at LA Galaxy) showed what riches there are to be plundered in the States for ageing superstars with some power still left in their legs.
Could Messi follow in the footsteps of Zlatan, David Beckham, Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard (yes, a season at New York City FC in 2015 - I'd forgotten too), Wayne Rooney, Thierry Henry, Kaka, Didier Drogba and Gonzalo Higuain (currently at Inter Miami).
Like the above-mentioned, 34-year-old Messi is undeniably in the autumn of his career and could be tempted by the adulation, glamour and riches of America. He certainly seemed to enjoy it on his recent break there.
Serie A is always on the list of potential destinations when a superstar is up for grabs, but in this case a Messi move to Italy seems a little more unlikely.
Newly installed Inter Milan boss Simone Inzaghi inherits a title-winning squad boasting the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, but the club are reportedly in debt by around €500million (precisely the sum of Messi's most recent four-year deal at Barcelona). They seem more likely to sell than buy.
Imagine the global frenzy it would spark if Messi joined Juventus and hooked up with his rival Cristiano Ronaldo! Alas, that also seems a pipe dream.
Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United
The Reds do not tend to buy established megastars on huge wages, preferring in general players whose best years are still ahead of them.
Chelsea would be able to meet Messi's wage demands, but the Champions League winners seem well down the line in their pursuit of Lukaku. Could their heads be turned at last minute by Messi?