Why does Lionel Messi want to leave Barcelona? Transfer saga explained

Lionel Messi Barcelona
The six-time Ballon d'Or winner could be on his way out of Catalunya - Goal takes a look at what has fuelled departure talk

Lionel Messi has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, having joined the club as a 14-year-old, and the Argentine's glorious exploits have seen him become an honorary Catalan.

He has helped the club to 10 league titles and four Champions Leagues, scooping a record six Ballons d'Or for his personal contributions along the way.

His affinity for Barcelona is clear in his near lifelong commitment to the Spanish giants, but it seems that love is on the wane and he appears closer to the exit door than ever before.

So is Messi about to bid farewell to Camp Nou and why? Goal breaks down the current situation.

Is Lionel Messi going to leave Barcelona?

It is not certain that Messi will actually leave Barcelona, but his lawyers have sent a fax to the club outlining a desire to depart.

That suggests that a Messi exit from Camp Nou is now more likely than ever before, particularly with the player's contract due to expire in 2021.

Back in July, it was understood that Messi did not want to leave Barcelona, but it is true that the Argentina international has spoken in the past of potentially joining another club. 

Barca president Josep Bartomeu countered speculation about a Messi exit this summer by claiming that the club will "enjoy [Messi] for much longer" after stressing that their star player is not interested in a departure.

"I am not going to give details but Messi has said many times that he will end his football life in Barcelona," Bartomeu said.

He added: "Messi wants to continue and wants to end [his career] here. He has many years left and we are going to enjoy him for much longer."

However, it seems that things have changed significantly since then.

Why does Lionel Messi want to leave Barcelona?

Messi is expected to reveal his reasons for seeking a transfer away from Barcelona in the coming days, in an effort to provide some clarity to his supporters.

However, a number of the issues that have increased the possibility of an exit at this juncture are known and have been widely reported.

It is understood that his main complaints are related to off-field machinations at the club, which, it is felt, are adversely affecting the on-field fortunes of the team.

The dismissal of Ernesto Valverde as head coach in January, for example, was not a move that Messi was happy about and he expressed his disappointment at the decision.

Prior to Valverde's sacking, Messi also questioned whether the Bartomeu-led board had done enough in their efforts to bring Neymar - a player he enjoyed playing with - back to Camp Nou.

His bubbling discontent became even more apparent in February, when the captain publicly hit back at Barca technical secretary Eric Abidal over his criticisms of the players.

"Those in charge of sporting direction should also face up to their responsibilities and above all take charge of their own decisions," shot the Argentine in a caustic Instagram post.

Then, when confirming the players' 70 per cent pay cut during the coronavirus lockdown in March, Messi directed a barb at figures within the club "who tried to put us under pressure to do something we always knew we would do."

Lionel Messi Barcelona GFX

Is Lionel Messi Barcelona exit situation a 'power play'?

Having kept his own counsel on internal political issues within the club over the years, Messi's recent outspokenness certainly indicates that he is now willing to exert his not insignificant influence.

Indeed, it has been suggested that he is engaging in a 'power play' - one which could potentially precipitate a premature end to Bartomeu's presidency, with club elections set to take place in March 2021.

Bartomeu, as the head of the Barca board which Messi has been critical of, has taken on the role as the chief antagonist in this scenario.

Victor Font, who is one of the favourites to succeed Bartomeu as club president in 2021, has said that Messi's future at the club now depends on the resignation of Bartomeu.

"If there is any option for Messi to stay, no matter how small, it goes through the resignation of Bartomeu," Font said on Onda Cero radio show 'El Transistor'.

He added: "This board will leave with this departure on its CV. After the 8-2 [Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich], we thought we had hit rock bottom, but we hadn't.

"Leo is a legend of Barcelona, I cannot imagine that his departure will be determined in court; I hope, for the good of the institution, that we know how to handle his departure well."

Another presidential candidate, Jordi Farre, presented a motion of no confidence in Bartomeu after it emerged that Messi was seeking an exit.

In a message posted on Twitter, Farre said of the current board: "They can't be at the helm for another minute. It is time for facts and not for words."

There is clearly a political element to all of this and it is obvious that Messi wields the greatest power, with his words and actions carrying much more weight than that of the beige bureaucreats vying for the big seat.

Which clubs could Lionel Messi sign for?

Given his status as one of the best footballers who has ever lived, Messi would have no shortage of options if he ever did decide to leave Barcelona.

He has notably been touted for a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City in the past and the Premier League club are certainly among the few who would be well placed to afford him.

Those links have been made again in light of recent rumblings, but Guardiola played down the suggestion that Messi could soon grace the Etihad Stadium, expressing a wish for the Argentine to remain at Barca.

However, as revealed by Goal at the end of August, Guardiola has indeed held talks with Messi about the possibility of working together again.

Paris Saint-Germain have been mentioned as a real possibility based on the Ligue 1 side's financial clout, not to mention the fact that Neymar - a player Messi admires - is on the books.

A return to Argentina is another possibility, with his compatriot and friend Javier Mascherano emphasising that "anything could happen".

Mascherano himself returned home in 2020 to join Estudiantes and club chairman Juan Sebastian Veron joked that the No. 10 would be reserved for Messi if he wanted to sign for them.

“If you want to come here [Estudiantes], you have the '10' ensured," said Veron. 

“Beyond that, I don't really imagine him outside Barcelona, but these are things that we say today and tomorrow we see him out there going to another club. 

“The reality is that he is the only one who has the decision and desire; no one else knows.”

As well as Estudiantes, Messi's boyhood club Newell's Old Boys would surely be in the equation should he consider a return to his native land, while the likes of Boca Juniors and River Plate could possibly appeal.

Despite the appeal of returning home, there are difficulties associated with moving a young family across the Atlantic and raising them in a whole new environment.

Former Barcelona star Rivaldo has spoken of the financial incentive for all involved if Messi were to link up with his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus, though such an eventuality seems highly unlikely.

“With all this speculation, I believe that some agents are already dreaming about a Messi-Ronaldo double at Juventus and how big it will be around the globe,” Rivaldo said in July.

“If that happened there would be a world ‘boom', and I believe Juventus would quickly recover any investment on the Argentinian thanks to the boost they would get from visibility and marketing.

“It would be historical to see both playing together and I’m sure many Juve sponsors would love to help financially, so, it’s also a possibility for Messi."

While a dream team with Ronaldo at Juventus may be beyond contemplation for the Bianconeri, one Italian club that have been heavily linked are Inter.

Having previously gone "all out" to lure the Argentine to San Siro in 2008, recent speculation prompted the head of Pirelli - Inter's chief shirt sponsor - to hint that his company could help finance a move.

The idea of Pirelli making a contribution has precedent in Fiat's assistance to Juve when Ronaldo joined from Real Madrid in 2018. 

Old Trafford is another rumoured destination, with reports in Argentina back in July suggesting Manchester United were readying a €120 million (£108m/$136m) part-exchange offer.

The notion of United making a move for Messi was resurrected following the recent revelations and the Red Devils would certainly not want to sit idly by and watch their rivals City land the player without a fight.

In truth, any club in the world would be keen to sign Messi, such is his status, but in the event that he does leave, whoever does sign him will need deep pockets.