Potential Landing Spots for Lionel Messi After Shocking News of Barcelona Exit

Shane Evans@@shanevansContributor IAugust 5, 2021

Potential Landing Spots for Lionel Messi After Shocking News of Barcelona Exit

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    Joan Monfort/Associated Press

    Well, the unthinkable has happened. FC Barcelona announced Thursday that Lionel Messi, the player many consider the greatest in the history of football, will not continue with the club after 21 unmatchable years.

    Wow. It was almost assumed that, despite the protracted re-signing process after his contract expired, he would return to the Blaugrana and continue his amazing career, one that has amassed an incredible 672 goals and 305 assists over 778 matches, all in the famous blue and maroon of the Catalan club.

    But it is not to be, according to an official statement from Barcelona. The difficulties in structure within La Liga has made a contract extension untenable, and it appears as though Leo will be off to play for a different club for the first time in his professional career, which is something that will take much getting used to.

    And so, the million-dollar question (or closer to a billion if you're looking at some proposed contract figures)—where to next, Mr. Messi?

    Let us break down the most likely landing spots for Messi, starting with the least likely and ending with where makes the most sense. Still feels strange to express out loud that Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona, but here goes...

5. FC Barcelona

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    That's right, despite the official communication from the club and the finality of it all, there is still a chance that Messi re-ups in Catalonia and stays with Barca.

    How could that be, you ask? Well, think about it this way: What better way to put pressure on La Liga to adjust its structuring and politics than to put out a release stating that the main asset the league has (a 5'7" demigod with the ball at his feet) is walking out the door because of certain league restrictions?

    It is extremely unlikely that Barcelona don't want him back, because what kind of sense would that make? And Leo is as devoted as they come to his team, the city, to cementing his legend with the club. All of it. Could a 180 be on the cards once the dust settles and some changes are made? Possibly. Stranger things have happened and it would certainly make quite the story.

    Though at this point, it feels a bit too far forward in the process to turn back now. Never say never, but a stay in Spain is, at the time of writing, the least likely decision.

4. Juventus

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Now, this is the real fantasy scenario, however far-fetched as it may be.

    Just imagine for a second the drama of a Champions League knockout match, and onto the pitch in Turin walks Juventus, the storied Italian club, with the incomprehensible duo of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting XI.

    It is truly the stuff that dreams are made of, and every football fan on the planet would love to see it...and they'd be lying if they said otherwise. We've all imagined what it would be like to have them play together and this could be the only chance we get, outside of the inevitable post-retirement charity matches in the not-so-distant future.

    But could it happen? Well, it appears to be quite a long shot. If anyone is more strapped for cash than those in La Liga (outside of some recent good news, that is), it's our friends on the Apennine Peninsula. Juve's wage bill is already through the roof, and adding the complexities of a Messi contract seems nigh impossible. 

    The dream is nice and all, but don't bank on the iconic pairing of the world's greatest players until they are in their retirement years.

3. Chelsea

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    If there is anyone who can pull off a move of this magnitude and sheer insanity, it's Roman Abramovich. The man has never shied away from bold and brazen decisions, and he certainly has the capital to back it up.

    Chelsea has an impressive attacking force currently made up of a number of younger stars who are earning their wings on the big stage (that little matter of winning the UEFA Champions League certainly helped). Adding a proven world-beater to the mix would put the Blues front and center of all title races, both domestically and on the continent.

    It'd be brilliant to see Leo interchanging with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz. He'd run the team going forward and be the true finisher it needs to spur the club on to a new era of Premier League dominance. With N'Golo Kante, Jorginho and Thiago Silva holding it down behind him, Stanford Bridge could be a very enticing home for the little legend. 

    You would have to think that Abramovich would see this as one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. One that would push the limits of what he has done since buying the club in 2003. Bringing the best player in the world to England and determining once and for all whether he can put it all together on those infamous cold, rainy winter nights. Hard to top, Roman.

    Still, this move seems a bit extreme. Also, there is another club in the UK that would have the edge should Leo decide to head north and cross the Channel.

2. Manchester City

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    Thibault Camus/Associated Press

    Speaking of cold, rainy weather, Leo, let's do you one better and put you in one of the cities notorious for its harsh climate: Manchester.

    The dreary northern city has become the footballing capital of England over the last three decades. Rightly so, with the dominance of Manchester United in the 1990s and 2000s being followed by the emergence of Manchester City.

    And if City has anything at this point, besides the Premier League title in three of the last four seasons, it is lots and lots of money. Oh, and Messi's former manager Pep Guardiola.

    Seemingly the perfect fit, the Cityzens could afford to sign him, have the infrastructure to support and pay him through his playing days, including a move to MLS and City Football Group's NYCFC should that be of any interest. And again, Pep Guardiola.

    The pair enjoyed unparalleled success at the Camp Nou from 2008-12, winning three La Liga titles, two Champions Leagues and, you guessed it, lots of goals and assists for Leo. To the tune of 211 and 90 in only 219 matches. Unbelievable. 

    A reunion would be the stuff of legend and would be a real interesting twist in the Messi-Ronaldo drama, with the former joining the blue side of Manchester after the latter made his name in the red half. The stories basically write themselves.

    There is, however, the unfortunate timing of a club record signing that was announced Thursday, mere hours before the Messi news broke. Jack Grealish, formerly of Aston Villa, joined Guardiola's ranks on a $140 million deal. Not only that, Grealish will inherit Sergio Aguero's iconic No. 10 shirt, one also worn by Messi for the majority of his career at Barca. Not ideal, really.

    Will it still happen? Maybe. Is it the likeliest of all the scenarios in the world? Close. Unfortunately for the Premier League fans reading this, most signs are pointing to a move a bit closer to Spain.

1. Paris Saint-Germain

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    Thibault Camus/Associated Press

    It's almost too delicious to put into words. The marriage of football's most insatiable club and the game's best player. What's not to like?

    Dig deeper and you have the Messi-Neymar reunion, which would be an absolute delight for fans the world over to see those two play together once more. Deeper still, and you'll be spoiled by the almost hilarious joining of Madrid legend and new PSG defender Sergio Ramos with one of his greatest-ever foils in Messi. 

    Messi and Kylian Mbappe? Yes, please. Messi joining PSG's Argentine cohort of Angel Di Maria, Leandro Paredes and Mauro Icardi? Sign me up. Honestly, what isn't to like about this move other than the sometimes questionable talent levels of Ligue 1? Not much, really.

    As we know by now, PSG certainly has the financial might to make a move like this happen, and it would go a long way in convincing Mbappe to stay with the club, at least for a few years while Leo is in the mix.

    And then there's the Champions League. Ownership has made it crystal clear to manager Mauricio Pochettino that winning Europe's top competition is paramount in the years ahead. What better way to accomplish this than by adding a proven winner at that level? There would be absolutely no excuses after that.

    So is the City of Lights in Messi's future? Most signs are pointing to it right now, but as we've seen throughout this gripping saga starring the world's top name, anything is possible...and only Leo knows exactly what will happen next. 

    Hold on tight, football fans, we'll soon be coming in for a landing.


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