Lionel Messi may be on the move for the first time in his legendary career, as the footballing superstar has reportedly informed Barcelona, the club with which he’s been with since he was 13 years old, that he would like to leave.
The report comes from Argentina’s TyC Sports, indicating Messi plans to utilize a clause in his contract that allows him to leave the club for free — as opposed to another team needing to pay the 700 million Euro release clause. The question is whether that clause is still active, as it was set to expire on May 30 when the Champions League final was supposed to take place. The pandemic obviously changed a lot of things in the soccer world, but whether Messi’s key contract dates are included in that is not known.
This all comes with a variety of caveats, including Messi having threatened to leave Barcelona in the past in order to push the club to acquiesce to his demands, but it seems this may be different. Messi, 33, just saw Barcelona get railroaded by Bayern Munich in an 8-2 loss in their latest early exit from the Champions League and subsequently fire manager Quique Setien.
Further indication this seems very real is that Messi’s former Barcelona teammate Carles Puyol offered him well wishes and support.
Maybe the bigger question is whether there’s a club out there that can make the financials work for Messi, who commands a massive salary and a potentially historic transfer fee from Barcelona (pending whether his opt-out clause is extended or not) — which is made all the more difficult amid the COVID-19 pandemic that’s cut profits for Europe’s top clubs tremendously with no fans in stadiums. Manchester City has been the team most widely speculated to be a landing spot for Messi should he push his way out of Barcelona, as they employ his former manager Pep Guardiola and are England’s biggest spenders, and they have reportedly been eyeing the Argentinian legend for some time.
Should Messi be determined to leave Barcelona, it would end one of the greatest eras in club soccer history between a star and organization. Whether that’s this offseason or at the end of next season when his contract officially runs up, it would rock the footballing world and any team that got his services would gain not just one of the best players on the pitch in the world, but also pick up support from his legions of fans around the world.