On Tuesday the soccer world was rocked when FC Barcelona confirmed that Lionel Messi had told the club he plans to leave this offseason.
A million questions popped up, but a big one hung over everything: Where would he even go?
There aren’t many teams in the world with the combination of elite play, Champions League aspirations, and endless cash that will be needed to bring Messi in.
There are so many variables in play here, too. If Messi can opt out of his contract successfully (a big if, as we explain here) then that would save a club a certainly record transfer fee, and make the prospect of signing Messi a bit more feasible.
If they can’t, well, they’ll need to have All of the Money.
First, let’s look at the teams that could in theory sign Messi, but won’t try.
Manchester United has the financial means, sure, but I just don’t see this happening. The team is finally coming together around a breathtaking young attacking trio of Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial, they desperately need help in defense, and they seem committed to building around a young core.
Juventus is what would happen in the movies, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi finally joining up to take on all comers, but the wages of the two of them alone would make it just about impossible for them to pay anyone else, and I don’t see it.
Bayern Munich has the funds, but this isn’t what they do. What they do is squeeze smaller teams in Germany to give up their best players for nothing. Paying Messi $100 mil a year isn’t that.
Real Madrid? No. He wouldn’t. Violence would break out in Spain. This can’t happen. National peace depends on it, Lionel. Don’t be stupid.
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So let’s get to the realistic destinations, sorted by likelihood of them happening.
1. FC Barcelona
I still have this down as the favorite. It’s still entirely possible Messi wanted to make his displeasure heard with how the club’s president has handled business, with how the club initially put blame on players for not taking pay cuts at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the new coach … with everything.
If Barcelona’s board members weren’t listening to him before, they’re listening to him now. Maybe this is all just a very public way of having an argument and getting changes he wants implemented. If the changes are put in, perhaps he stays.
2. Manchester City
Of all the non-Barcelona options, this one makes the most sense to me. Manchester City has a more experienced attacking line, but with David Silva departing, there’s a place for Messi to slot in. They have more money than God, so they can pay him.
And, if his ultimate desire is to finish his career in the United States, ESPNFC is now reporting that City will offer to slide him over to NYCFC in a few years, while making him a global ambassador for City Football Group and, you know, giving him All Of The Money.
3. Inter Milan
Inter has the financial means to make this happen, in theory, and this signing would go a long way to solidifying their Champions League aspirations and re-creating the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry in Italy.
I doubt it can happen, but who knows.
A front three of Messi – Neymar – Mbappe is some real FIFA Ultimate Team stuff, but if Messi wants to compete for Champions League trophies immediately, this makes sense. No idea how the financials would work, or if possibly PSG could send Angel di Maria back in a swap, but it would, in theory, be possible.
5. Newell’s Old Boys
I don’t think this will happen, but if Messi’s boyhood club offered to bring him home and give him an ownership stake simultaneously? I mean, crazier things have happened?
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