Barcelona Transfer News: Lionel Messi 2018 Exit Reported, Top Blaugrana Rumours

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2016

Barcelona's Lionel Messi looks on during the final of the Copa del Rey soccer match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Sunday, May 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

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 frauda 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:

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
PerezCarrasco
Apps3629
Minutes3,1381,496
Goals174
Assists101
Chances Created per 90 minutes2.071.26
Successful Take-Ons per 90 minutes1.094.03
Interceptions per 90 minutes0.141.44
Pass Completion79%82%
Squawka

As WhoScored.com revealed, as well as finding the net regularly, Perez showed exceptional support for his team-mates:

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:

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.  

Related

    Sarri's Agent in London to Finalise Chelsea Move

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Sarri's Agent in London to Finalise Chelsea Move

    Sky Sports
    via Sky Sports

    Sarri Wants Dries Mertens at Chelsea

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Sarri Wants Dries Mertens at Chelsea

    Matt Law,
    via The Telegraph

    Tips & Picks for Wednesday's Big Games

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Tips & Picks for Wednesday's Big Games

    Tom Sunderland
    via Bleacher Report

    How to Watch Wednesday's World Cup Games

    World Football logo
    World Football

    How to Watch Wednesday's World Cup Games

    Matt Jones
    via Bleacher Report