First, the facts.
At 4:30pm local time on Thursday afternoon Barcelona posted the following statement on their official website:
The four-time Ballon d’or winner will be a FC Barcelona player through June 30 of 2018.
Barcelona, with whom Lionel Messi has won five league titles and three European Cups in addition to the quartet of footballer of the year gongs, have always made sure to take good care of their prized asset, and shortly after inking the €11 million-per-year pact the 26-year-old once again reiterated his desire to see out his best years at Camp Nou.
“I said it before, in Europe I’d like to end my career at Barca,” he told FCBarcelona.com. “I wouldn’t consider moving to another European club.”
A noble expression of loyalty, and no doubt said with sincerity as well.
But now allow a bit of fantasy.
Five years—the length of Messi’s extension—is a long time, and an especially long time in football. Any number of things could happen before the deal expires. There could be a clash with a future coach, a desire on behalf of the club to cash in on their best player and fund a new generation of glory, a curiosity on Messi’s part as to how he would fare in another division.
Or, of course, he could see out the duration of his contract and even sign another, final extension in a few years’ time.
That said, permit yourself a moment of whimsy and consider some rather more unlikely, yet all the more fascinating, scenarios. Speculations, after all, are the sweets in the football buffet.