With Lionel Messi a free agent this summer, it is no surprise that his potential destinations are already filling the football media. The Paris Saint-Germain star seems all but certain to leave Ligue 1, with three key destinations being mentioned; Saudi Arabia, Barcelona or Inter Miami, although the latter idea has been less strong of late.
Barcelona would be the sentimental option, giving the Argentine the farewell from Camp Nou he never had when he was forced to leave. It would however allow President Joan Laporta another victory, despite having been the one that betrayed the Messi family in the first place.
Meanwhile Saudi Arabia, with Al Hilal thought to be the most likely to sign Messi there, would offer a mammoth cheque to play in the desert for the next few years.
Ben Jacobs summarised the situation for Caught Offside on their Daily Substack column.
“Messi would likely and gladly play for free for Barcelona or with a massive pay cut, but this would be deemed as financial manipulation. So Barcelona’s problem is they need a lot of dominos to fall in place to pull off a Messi return, and that may also mean outgoings. Ansu Fati could be one casualty even though he wants to stay at the club.”
There has been talk of increased pressure on Barcelona to provide Messi and his father and agent Jorge Messi with an offer in the next one to two weeks.
“It’s hard to see Barcelona completing anything in a matter of weeks, and that’s what gives Saudi Arabia confidence. A government-backed offer, supported by the Saudi Pro League, has been on the table since April.”
“Messi would earn around £320m-per-year [€370m], almost double Cristiano Ronaldo’s salary. Many of the same dealmakers that took Ronaldo to Al-Nassr are involved.”
No doubt it is hard to put yourself in the shoes of anyone being offered that much money, and harder for most to imagine turning it down. Yet Messi would essentially be bidding farewell to his career at the top level too, something he might not be ready to do just six months after winning the World Cup – or perhaps that makes it more likely.