Lionel Messi’s two-year spell at Paris St Germain ended in a 3-2 home defeat to Clermont Foot at the weekend.
An option to extend his stay with the Ligue 1 champions has not been activated with the Argentina World Cup winner heavily linked with a return to Barcelona, although he does have other alternatives.
Here, the PA news agency looks at where the 35-year-old seven-time Ballon d’Or winner might go next.
Considering Messi never really wanted to leave and was effectively forced out as the club’s financial problems meant they could not afford to renew his contract, due to wage cap issues, a return to his spiritual home in Catalonia, the Nou Camp seems the obvious choice. Even last summer, club president Joan Laporta said it was the club’s responsibility to “find a moment to fix that chapter” so it has “a more beautiful ending”. However, despite losing the long-serving Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba off the wage bill for next season, the club still have to cut costs to satisfy LaLiga and that remains a huge stumbling block.
One place where money is not an issue is Saudi Arabia – for whom Messi is already a tourism ambassador – and the Saudi Pro League has already attracted Cristiano Ronaldo to Al Nassr this year. He has been linked with Al Hilal, who would have no problems enhancing his net annual salary of £31million, but Ronaldo’s experience since arriving five months ago, with reports suggesting he is not happy, may influence Messi’s thinking and a year after winning the World Cup, he may not be ready to step away from the limelight.
While not an elite-level club, David Beckham’s Inter Miami has long been touted as a final destination for the South American and if he were to move to the United States, he would become Major League Soccer’s highest-profile signing and highest-paid player in history. Messi, who has a home in Miami, has spoken in the past of wanting to play in America and the lifestyle in Florida – which has a large Hispanic community – would appeal. He would, however, again have to accept his days at the very highest level are over and also have to accept a significant pay cut.
It seems slightly more fanciful for Messi to consider a reunion with his former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium. While that move would be based on mutual respect and emotional ties, it could be argued Messi needs the all-conquering Premier League champions, who could win a treble if they beat Inter Milan in Saturday’s Champions League final, more than City do. They are probably the only English club who could afford him but it is debatable whether they would want to invite that extra scrutiny, with more than 100 Premier League charges regarding financial fair play already hanging over them.