Lionel Messi is reportedly considering leaving Barcelona for "another big European club" when his contract with the Blaugrana expires in 2018.
According to Spanish outlet Cadena COPE (h/t Goal), Messi "is thought to be weighing up his future with the Catalan club as he continues to be hounded by legal issues in Spain," and as he will only be 31 in 2018, he would likely consider it too early to make a return to boyhood club Newell's Old Boys.
The Argentinian enjoyed yet more success with Barca last season as he helped them complete a league-and-cup double. In January, he picked up his fifth Ballon d'Or, and in April, he netted his 500th goal for club and country.
However, earlier in July, Messi received a 21-month suspended prison sentence for tax fraud—a decision he will appeal, according to the BBC.
After the verdict, the club has been showing its support for the 29-year-old via social media:
FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona
It's time to show our support: #WeAreAllLeoMessi. Add your voice to the campaign 👐 https://t.co/ld9dyidoXO https://t.co/mNnfeZxl172016-7-9 14:40:59
Though it's possible Messi could leave—and he'll have his pick of clubs if he does—it seems highly unlikely he'll depart Barca until he's much older. And if he does, his homeland appears to be by far his most realistic destination.
Meanwhile, according to Sport's Juan Manuel Diaz, Barca are targeting a back-up for their front three of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez and are considering Deportivo La Coruna forward Lucas Perez and Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco among their options.
Both enjoyed strong campaigns for their respective clubs as the former helped Deportivo stay up and Carrasco made an impressive start to life in La Liga and netted a goal in the UEFA Champions League final.
Here are their league stats, per Squawka:
|Perez vs. Carrasco 2015-16 La Liga Stats|
|Chances Created per 90 minutes||2.07||1.26|
|Successful Take-Ons per 90 minutes||1.09||4.03|
|Interceptions per 90 minutes||0.14||1.44|
As WhoScored.com revealed, as well as finding the net regularly, Perez showed exceptional support for his team-mates:
Lucas Pérez: Only 3 players have made more key passes from open play in La Liga this season than @LP10oficial (59) https://t.co/VyaUgPCFzF2016-5-11 11:30:54
Here are some of his highlights:
Meanwhile, Carrasco's pace and impressive dribbling skills made him a useful impact sub for Los Rojiblancos.
Spanish football expert Sergi Dominguez believes the 22-year-old deserved a starting berth in the Champions League final, though, and noted the way he's turned opinion around during his time at the Vicente Calderon:
Sergi Domínguez @FutbolSergi
Simeone got the team selection wrong. Carrasco easily one of Atleti's best performers this season and is very good vs low-block. Why bench?2016-5-28 21:40:24
Sergi Domínguez @FutbolSergi
Always a joy to watch Carrasco. I say it when I'm wrong, didn't rate him after watching the first 3 months of him at Atleti. So, so good.2016-6-26 20:28:34
Either would be a useful signing, though their importance to their respective sides could make them difficult to land.
As the younger of the two and already being at a title-contending team, Carrasco's would be a tricky signing to pull off.
Barca need reinforcement in that area if they're to have enough cover to see them through next season—the sooner they can bring in another forward the better.