Reports broke on Tuesday afternoon in a number of outlets across Europe, claiming Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona he wants to leave this summer.
With 15 years as a regular first-team player, 731 games in all competitions, 634 goals and 285 assists, as well as no less than six Ballon d’Or Awards on the side of four Champions League trophies, 10 La Liga titles and six Copa del Rey trophies, Messi is arguably the player to have done the most for a single club in the history of the game at its highest level.
However, Barcelona are at the moment in a very difficult situation. For a club like that, to end the 2019/20 season without a single trophy is nothing short of disaster. The financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, made even worse by their poor transfer dealings in recent years, only add to the feeling of misery surrounding the Catalan giants at the moment.
Messi is under contract with Barcelona until next summer, but the contract reportedly contains a clause which enables him to leave each summer as a free agent, should he wish to do so. This clause is now a subject of much dispute, with the club apparently claiming it has expired for 2020, while Messi believes otherwise. If the club proves right, it’ll take €700 million for a potential suitor to take the matter out of Barca’s hands.
If Messi does leave the Camp Nou, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, as two extremely wealthy clubs, are mentioned as his most likely destinations, though he has been linked with Inter Milan in recent months as well.
Nothing can be ruled out at this point. He could yet end up staying put for another year; some believe his transfer request is merely a game to force president Josep Maria Bartomeu out of the club. Some say he wants to leave as a result of newly appointed head coach Ronald Koeman informing him that his vast privileges at the club are over, in addition to his friend Luis Suarez being directed towards the exit door. Others, meanwhile, suggest that at the age of 33 he could be tired of the same challenges year after year and could be keen to test himself elsewhere before the curtain falls on his career.
One thing is certain; this story will be under the spotlight of the football world all the way until its final act is over.