After nearly two decades at the Nou Camp Lionel Messi has decided it's time to move on from Barcelona, potentially bringing to an end a marriage in football that most punters could not see ending in a public divorce.
Being (arguably) the greatest footballer of all time, you'd expect a move for Messi to be relatively simple, right? Well, here I will explain why any potential moves will be complicated and potential suitors for Messi should he move on.
The easiest part of Messi's contract to understand is that he's currently contracted to Barcelona until the end of the 20/21 season.
Now, this is where it gets complicated...
Barcelona inserted a £626m buy-out-clause in Messi's contract, meaning that potential suitors would have to triple the current world record transfer fee to prize Messi away from the Camp Nou. This clause appeared to make a future transfer away from Barcelona impossible for Messi, who even claimed, "My dream was to finish my career at Barcelona and we are moving down that path".
"My dream was to finish my career at Barcelona and we are moving down that path"
However, also inserted into Messi's contract as a "good-will gesture" was a clause that would allow Messi to leave Barcelona for free at the end of every season should he choose to do so - a thank you gesture for what Barcelona's greatest player has done for the club.
This is where the complication lies. Messi is trying to activate the clause, claiming that because the season was extended until the end of August, so was the clause. Barcelona are refusing this option and reiterating that the clause ended on June 10th - and as Messi did not inform them of his intention to leave by then, the clause is invalid.
This means there is a potential legal battle in the offing between Lionel Messi and Barcelona, which is almost certainly something that both sides will want to avoid. Additionally, it is believed that if this were to go to court that Barcelona would win the case. This leaves any potential transfer for Lionel Messi difficult. Barcelona are unwilling to let him go for under £220m - and who can afford that for a 33-year-old in the current climate?
With that said, let's look at some potential suitors for Messi.
The most suitable move for Lionel Messi is thought to be Manchester City. Playing alongside Sergio Aguero, managed by his footballing father Pep Guardiola - and more importantly - City have the financial capabilities to bring him to Manchester.
Marcelo Bechler, who first reported Messi wanting to leave over a week ago, and first reported Neymar's move to PSG three years ago, is claiming that Messi has already decided on his next move - Manchester City.
It has been reported that Messi contacted Pep Guardiola personally last week asking whether Manchester City would be able to fund a transfer for the Argentine, with Guardiola extremely interested in the move. Gabriel Jesus, Angelino and Eric Garcia could potentially be sent the other way.
It's a move that makes sense. Would you like to see Messi in the Premier League?
Another potential move for Lionel Messi could be PSG. The Parisians are renowned for their financial exploits having been funded by the Qatari royal family - could Messi be the man to finally win them the Champions League?
A front three of Messi, Mbappe, and Neymar would be an eye-watering sight and with Messi and Neymar already having unrivaled chemistry, that led to them winning a Champions League together at Barcelona, PSG appears to be a realistic option. It is well known that Messi wants to go to a Champions League contender - who is in a better position to go on to win the Champions League than the current runners up? If Messi could bring Paris their first-ever Champions League, it'd only heighten his legacy.
Thomas Tuchel commented on any potential Neymar-Messi reunion after the Champions League final saying, "He is very welcome! Which coach says no to Messi?"
Toungue-in-cheek or genuine intent? Only time will tell.
Finally, an outside contender for Lionel Messi's signature could be Inter Milan. Antonio Conte's side returned to being genuine contenders last season, finishing only one point behind Juventus in Serie A and losing the Europa League final 3-2 to Sevilla.
Lionel Messi has always been closely linked to Inter with the two previous closest occasions of him leaving Barcelona both being to Inter in 2006 & 2010. In 2006 Inter Milan were prepared to pay Messi's then £130m buyout clause at a time Barcelona were not allowed to play Messi in La Liga due to doubts over his footballing passport. Clubs were allowed no more than three non-EU players, and with those slots already filled with Ronaldinho, Eto'o, and Rafael Marquez - it took former Barcelona president Joan Laporta to convince Messi to stay.
"He'll be happy here, he'll get glory," Laporta told Messi's father. "Your son is destined to be the greatest in history and here he’ll have a team to help him get there".
"Your son is destined to be the greatest in history and here he’ll have a team to help him get there"
Rumours between Messi and the San Siro have circulated ever since, and Messi's former agent Josep Minguella claims Messi has chosen Inter as his next club.
A move for Lionel Messi this summer isn't simple... but it's not impossible. Where do you think Messi should join? Let us know in the reply box below!
Featured Image source: Twitter @BleacherReport