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Who will Lionel Messi sign for? The possible destinations for the Argentine forward

Lionel Messi
(Image credit: Getty)

Lionel Messi will not be a Barcelona player next season. The La Liga club announced on Thursday evening that their talisman - a man who has scored more than 650 goals across 16 glittering seasons - will leave this summer.

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While special media went into meltdown, superclubs across the globe began crunching the numbers. Could a deal for the world’s greatest player be financially manageable? It is rumoured that Messi would command more than £1m a week in salary, plus a signing on fee in the tens of millions. Here FFT suggests the clubs who might be able to pull off such an eye-watering deal. 

PSG

The French giants appear to be the favourites to sign Messi, given their financial muscle and desire to win the Champions League at all costs. Qatari-backed PSG are one of the few teams who could afford his wages without having to sell the antique silver, especially with Financial Fair Play restrictions seemingly so simple to circumvent at the time of writing.

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In Paris, Messi would team up with former El Classico nemesis Sergio Ramos - something few fans would ever have imagined at the peak of their rivalry in Spain - and would play alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in attack. The prospect of facing that trident would give any defender sleepless nights, and the trio would surely make PSG favourites to win the Champions League. 

Manchester City

Lionel Messi

(Image credit: Getty)

Messi wanted to move to Manchester City last summer, only to have his move blocked by the Barcelona board. He has described City manager Pep Guardiola, whom he played under at Barcelona between 2008 and 2012, as “the best manager in the world” and believes his greatest days were spent under the Catalan at the Nou Camp. 

City have already splashed £100m on Jack Grealish but are in the market for a striker following Sergio Aguero’s departure at the end of last season. The long-term target remains Harry Kane but Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is demanding north of £150m for the England captain. Messi would provide a world class stop gap for a couple of seasons, by which time Levy’s bargaining position will have weakened. The question, though, is whether Messi still has the pace and pressing required to play as a no.9, or whether he’d merely be another creator on City’s books. 

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Chelsea

Another Premier League club for whom money is no option. The Blues are backed by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who would jump at the chance to “own” Messi, even in the twilight of the forward’s career.

The reigning champions of Europe would represent an interesting option for a player desperate to win the Champions League again before he retires. Chelsea are also in the market for a striker, with coach Thomas Tuhcel unimpressed with his current options.

Yet one downside could be that Tuchel demands a lot from his forwards, both tactically and physically. Messi has enjoyed a free role at Barcelona in recent seasons, often doing very little when his team are out of possession. That level of workrate might not go down well with the German manager. Having said that, it wouldn’t be the first time Abramovich had forced a player on his manager. 

MLS

It could be that Messi is simply looking to wind down his career somewhere stress free and lucrative. MLS clubs would represent a decent retirement option for the Argentine, who would be richly rewarded while barely having to try on the pitch. 

Other Barcelona greats, including Johan Cruyff and David Villa, have spent their latter years in America, and Messi would have his pick of the clubs. Though whether he would really be willing to write off his career at this stage - he remains arguably the world’s best player - is unlikely. 

Newell's Old Boys

Lionel Messi

(Image credit: Getty)

For love, rather than money. Despite spending the past 26 years of his life in Barcelona, Messi is a proud Argentine and he will have considered ending his career in his home nation, as Diego Maradona did with Boca Juniors in 1997. 

Messi was born in Rosario and represented the area’s biggest club, Newell’s Old Boys at youth level. It would be a heartwarming thing for Messi to give the last couple of years of his career to the club where it all began. Again, however, he might want to stay in Europe in order to win one more Champions League title at an elite club. 

Barcelona

Lastly, of course, there is the chance Messi does stay at Barcelona after all. Despite the club announcing that a deal was impossible given their dire financial situation, there is always a chance in football. 

Barcelona’s president, Joan Laporta, would like to keep him, Messi’s teammates would like him to stay, fans want him to stay and La Liga won't want to lose their most bankable star. It’s not impossible an arrangement could yet be made. 

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