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

Lionel Messi Pep Guardiola 2020-21
Getty/Goal
The Argentina superstar's future is still very uncertain, with six months left until his Barcelona contract is up - so where could he go next?

When Lionel Messi announced last summer that he wanted to leave Barcelona, the world was at a standstill.

Messi outlined his unhappiness at Camp Nou, but, in an exclusive interview with Goal, he revealed his decision to stay, as the only way to break his contract was to take Barcelona to court.

But now that Messi's contract is expiring this summer, he could be set to actually leave this time. Which club could he potentially play for next? Goal takes a look.

Barcelona

Messi's contract with Barcelona expires at the end of the current season, meaning he could leave Camp Nou for free in the summer and is now allowed to talk to other clubs.

Messi's contract buyout clause (or release clause) is €700 million (£630m/$825m), which was put in place when Messi signed a new four-year contract with Barcelona in 2017. 

This clause, however, will expire at the end of his current deal, paving the way for him to join another club as a free agent.

The Argentine has stated that he does not intend to announce his future plans until the end of the season, telling La Sexta: "What matters now is thinking about the team, finishing the year well and not being distracted by other things. I don't know what will happen.

"I'm focused on what we have here and battling for whatever we can. I'll wait until the season is over."

Lionel Messi Barcelona 2020-21

Staying at Barcelona and extending his contract is still an option for the forward, but it will be up to the next Barcelona president to convince the superstar to stay.

After the major falling out between Messi and former president Josep Bartomeu, the relationship between the board and the player still remains uncertain - with even presidential candidate Agusti Benedito pessimistic about Messi's future at Barcelona.

"Keeping Messi would be the best news for the club but I am not very optimistic," the Spanish entrepreneur told ESPN. "Given the club's situation, I think it's really important that he stays at Barca, with the understanding that he understands the next two years we have in front of us [could be difficult]."

Barcelona are set to hold elections for a new president on January 24.

PSG

Paris Saint-Germain as a destination for Messi is one of the likelier options, especially as the club will be able to afford him - and he will be granted a long-desired reunion with former team-mate Neymar.

Mauricio Pochettino refused to link himself to rumours that the club have targeted Messi as a summer target, telling reporters in his first press conference as manager: “We leave the rumours aside. All great players are welcome at PSG.

“Father Christmas has been generous with me, I take this opportunity to thank president Nasser [Al-Khelaifi] and [sporting director] Leonardo for the trust and to be in this great club and back in this house. 

“It's one of the biggest clubs, if not the biggest in the world, so it's normal that there are rumours. We have just arrived so we leave them aside.”

Manchester City

The Premier League club emerged as a hopeful frontrunner for Messi's signature during the transfer saga last summer, and is another likely option for the 33-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.

Lionel Messi Pep Guardiola Barcelona 2010-11

The two continue to have a strong relationship, with chief operating officer Omar Berrada telling the Manchester Evening News of previous Messi links: “He's an amazing talent, he's somebody that can make a significant impact at any club in the world on and off the pitch immediately.

“He's the best player in the world, he's the best player of his generation. I think any club in the world would like to explore the possibility of him joining their team."

New York City FC

Messi revealed for the first time in his career 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.

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According to ESPN, there is a likelihood 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." 

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