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Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi's next club: Where will Barcelona legend transfer in 2021?

13:15 BST 08/08/2021
Lionel Messi Barcelona 2020-21
The Argentina superstar's future is still very uncertain after Barcelona announced that he would leave the club – so where will he go next?

Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona after a combination of the club's financial difficulties and La Liga's financial fair play rules meant a contract could not be finalised.

It was understood that Messi would be renewing his contract at Camp Nou despite revealing in an exclusive interview with Goal last year of his intentions to leave.

Despite both Barcelona and Messi hoping to reach an agreement, the deal is now seemingly off the table – and Messi is now set to leave. So which club could he potentially play for next? Goal takes a look.

Paris-Saint Germain

In his tearful farewell press conference, Messi admitted that he could sign for Paris Saint-Germain.

“Paris Saint-Germain is a possibility, yes," explained the Argentina star. "At the moment nothing is confirmed, I received a lot of calls after the Barcelona statement. We’re talking about it."

According to outlets such as Marca, PSG are confident that they can sign Messi and retain Kylian Mbappe – with the French side having been the frontrunners in the race for his signature.

PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino himself commented on the situation in a press conference before his side's Ligue 1 opening fixture against Troyes, saying: "I have not spoken with [Messi]. And [any move] would not mean that Kylian would leave.

"A player of Messi's calibre, that is what is interesting to me. The club are working on several options, but we must focus on the game with Troyes.

"We know about what happened yesterday. The club is working on the transfer window and on the elements that could come in to improve the team and allow us to achieve our goals."

Manchester City

The Premier League club emerged as a hopeful frontrunner for Messi's signature during the transfer saga last summer, and is another possible option for the 34-year-old along with PSG.

Both clubs have the financial means to afford Messi, but Manchester City have the lure of Pep Guardiola, whom Messi played for during his golden years at Barcelona.

Guardiola dismissed talk of signing Messi on a free transfer after breaking the British record-transfer fee with the £100 million signing of Jack Grealish, telling reporters in a press conference: "We spent £40 million on Jack Grealish. We paid £100m and brought in £60m.

"He will wear the No.10 because we were convinced with Grealish and we were convinced Leo would continue at Barcelona, so right now he is not in our thoughts."

Guardiola did, however admit that the news of Messi being set to leave Camp Nou came as a shock, saying: "It looked like it finished well in terms of him continuing with Barcelona. It was a surprise for everyone - me included. 

"The president was clear today. I didn't speak with the player or the president so I don't know what has happened but as a supporter of the club I would love for him to have finished there, but today the club needs to be sustainable and what happened in the last year was really not good. 

"As a fan, I have incredible gratitude for the most extraordinary player I have seen in my life, for the titles he helped to [win for] Barcelona, to help me personally to go to Munich and then to England."

New York City FC

Messi had previously revealed a desire to play in MLS, telling La Sexta  that he would like to play in the United States one day.

"I always said that I have the impression that I would like to enjoy the experience of living in the United States, of living in that league and that life, but if it happens or not I don't know," he said in the interview.

Should Messi decide to go Stateside, he would follow in the footsteps of European greats David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, who all had stints in North America.

Due to the unique nature of the City Football Group, which owns both Manchester City and New York City FC, the Big Apple could be a realistic destination for the striker.

According to ESPN, there is a possibility of Messi reuniting with Guardiola at Manchester City before retiring at NYCFC - a sister club to the Eithad side - to mark the end of his playing career. 

While high-profile sides like LA Galaxy and LAFC shouldn't be ruled out, the links between NYCFC and Man City make it a more likely destination, though David Beckham's Inter Miami is also an option.

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid

To nobody's surprise, Messi outright denied the possibility of joining a rival La Liga club, saying when asked if he could join Atletico Madrid or Real Madrid: "No, impossible." 

Barcelona

Barcelona president Joan Laporta conceded that chances of Messi now staying at Camp Nou after the contract breakdowns are now highly unlikely.

The deal negotiations dissolved due to the Camp Nou side having to abide by La Liga salary cap restrictions, which means that they are unable to agree on such a lucrative deal for another player.

Laporta said: "The salary mass is 110 per cent of the total income of the club, we don't have any margin in terms of salary. 

"The rules and regulations of the Spanish La Liga is regulated by Financial Fair Play and we don't have any margin. 

"I don't want to generate false hope. 

"During the course of negotiations we know that the player has had other offers. There was a time limit. 

"If fair play continues to be rigid, the player needs some time to see what he is going to do and look at other options. 

"We have been at it for two months and have gone through different stages. The first agreement was two years. Then we agreed a five-year contract. 

"We were all thinking of two years and, if he wanted more, we could sit and negotiate. We wanted the era of post-Messi to start in two years, but we have had to bring that forward."

He added: "Leo wanted to stay, so he is not happy. For him right now, it is a situation where he has to confront reality that can't be changed. He knows that I wish him the best wherever he goes. Barca is his home.