It appears that, if Lionel Messi has his way, he will be playing for a new club before long.

The Barcelona captain and talisman has told his employers that he wants to leave and, although the club seem determined to keep him, they may be fighting a losing battle.

Of course, prising Messi away from Barca is by no means straightforward. His basic salary is said to be roughly €71million and, when you add in bonuses and other possible commitments, that represents a huge outlay on a 33-year-old player.

That's before you consider the prospect of a nine-figure transfer fee, assuming he cannot successfully argue that the clause allowing him to walk away from Barca for nothing is still valid. Only a tiny handful of clubs are even capable of pulling off such a deal, particularly in a financial landscape changed by COVID-19.

But what if, just for a minute, we imagine money is no object and Messi could play for anyone he chooses? What if the thrill of the game were more important to him than winning a fifth Champions League? What if he threw caution to the wind and went somewhere just for fun?

We've imagined such a scenario, and these are the teams we'd love to see him play for...

 

AJAX

The link between Ajax and Barca goes beyond the basics of football: it's a shared ideology, a philosophical connection, a spiritual understanding.

From Johan Cruyff to Ronald Koeman, plenty of players and coaches have shared the love of both clubs, but Messi moving to Amsterdam would turn the romance up to 11.

Messi as the focal point of an Ajax side - who are beautiful to watch as it is - is a wonderful idea, and there is even the faint prospect of Luis Suarez going back to his old club to join him.

Plus, given the players they have signed from Ajax in the past - Frenkie de Jong the latest - Barca probably owe the Eredivisie club a transfer favour in return.

ATALANTA

Gian Piero Gasperini's side captured the hearts of the football world in 2019-20, threatening a title challenge in Serie A and coming close to reaching the Champions League semi-finals.

They did all this on a modest budget, playing vibrant, attacking football, and all during a global pandemic that struck Bergamo and the Lombardy region harder than almost anywhere else in Europe.

The way Argentine Alejandro Gomez pulls the strings for Atalanta is a joy to watch, but imagine if Messi were doing it alongside him. Imagine them facing Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus. Imagine Marten de Roon's Twitter feed.

Glorious, isn't it?

COLOGNE

The GOAT and the Billy Goats - what could be better?

Cologne have gone through some tricky times but Markus Gisdol has done a brilliant job in steadying the ship in the Bundesliga and was rewarded with a new contract until June 2023.

They might not have won the title since 1978, but they are among Germany's most esteemed clubs, with an ardent fan base and a beautiful home city. If Messi could lead them to challenge the might of Bayern Munich, it would be an unforgettable story.

If not... well, they have a goat as a mascot, for goodness' sake. It's too perfect.

LEEDS UNITED

It might be too early for Messi to return to Newell's Old Boys, but what if he joined up with Rosario's other most famous footballing export in Yorkshire?

Leeds United are back in the Premier League at last, having swept all before them in the Championship in 2019-20 under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa and his big blue bucket.

The chance to help awaken a sleeping giant of the English game while playing for the man who inspired Pep Guardiola sounds like an opportunity that's too good to miss.

Plus, if he wanted to visit Sergio Aguero, Manchester is less than an hour away by train.

MARSEILLE

If he's not ready to give up the Mediterranean lifestyle, Marseille is parfait for Messi.

OM remain the only French men's team to be champions of Europe - something of which they've been keen to remind fans of Paris Saint-Germain in recent days - and their supporters are possibly the loudest outside South America. Messi's Marseille beating Neymar's PSG would probably cause a year-long street party.

Head coach Andre Villas-Boas has compared Dimitri Payet to Messi, so you can only imagine he'd be thrilled to have them both. As for getting him there, sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta knows him only too well from his time at Barca.

In fact, Zubizarreta was another to be forced out by Josep Maria Bartomeu's operations. He'd probably like nothing better than to share a quiet cassis on the Cote d'Azur, reminiscing about those Camp Nou troubles.

Barcelona appear to be in significant danger of losing the greatest player in their history after Lionel Messi informed the club he wants to leave.

Messi rocked the world of football on Tuesday by stating his intention to activate a possible break clause in his contract, which expires in June 2021, and move on to a new club.

Barca hope to be able to convince him to stay, and it is reported the six-time Ballon d'Or winner intends to turn up for the return to training next Monday to avoid any potential complications.

When you look at the stats behind Messi's illustrious career at Camp Nou, it's easy to see why the club do not appear overly keen to let him go.

With the help of Opta, we look at a few of the incredible records and feats Messi has achieved with Barca.

 

- In his 731 appearances for Barcelona, Messi has scored a club-record 634 goals and supplied 254 assists. That amounts to 888 goal involvements during his Barcelona career, which began as a 17-year-old in October 2004.

- No player has scored more LaLiga goals than Messi's 444, while only Cristiano Ronaldo (447) has amassed more in the top five European leagues.

- Messi scored a record 50 goals in the 2011-12 LaLiga season and is the only player to convert at least 10 times in 14 straight campaigns in the Spanish top flight. He became the only player in history to score at least 40 club goals in 10 straight seasons between 2009-10 and 2018-19.

- From November 2012 until May 2013, the Argentina international scored in a record 21 consecutive LaLiga games.

- With 373 goals in 358 games at Camp Nou, Messi averages 1.04 goals per game at Barca's home ground. Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena is the only stadium in which he has made more than two appearances and failed to score.

- Messi has been on the losing side 83 times in all competitions with Barca, which equates to 11 per cent of his appearances. Just over 70 per cent of the games he has played for the club have ended in victory.

- Messi played more games (219) and scored more goals (211) for Barcelona under Pep Guardiola, who he has been linked with a reunion with at Manchester City, than he did with any other coach.

- His best goals-per-game ratio was 1.20 under Tito Vilanova, for whom he struck 60 times in 50 appearances in all competitions. Only under his first coach Frank Rijkaard (0.38) did he have a worse average than when playing for Quique Setien (0.63).

- Messi's best season in front of goal was 2011-12, when he scored 73 times and set up 29 more – both personal bests in a single season. In 2012 he set a record for the most goals for club and country in a calendar year, finding the net 91 times.

- The 33-year-old is the all-time leading scorer in El Clasico, finding the net against Real Madrid 26 times. His 15 goals at the Santiago Bernabeu in all competitions make it his most prolific away ground.

- In total he has scored against 79 different teams and his favourite opponents are Sevilla, who have conceded 37 goals in 39 meetings with him.

- The majority of his goals (522) have been scored with his left foot, while 22 have been headers. He has accumulated 47 goals from direct free-kicks and 75 from the penalty spot.

- Messi has registered 48 hat-tricks for Barcelona; 36 of those have come in LaLiga, which is a record.

- He has scored four goals in the same game on six occasions and converted five times in a match once, when he became the first player in Champions League history to achieve the feat in a meeting with Bayer Leverkusen at Camp Nou in March 2012.

- Messi's decision to leave came after new coach Ronald Koeman reportedly told Luis Suarez to find a new club. Their relationship is not just strong off the field – Suarez has assisted more Barca goals for Messi (47) than any other player.

Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona would represent a blow for all of LaLiga, says former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has informed Barca - his only senior club - he wishes to depart after a dismal season at Camp Nou.

The Catalan giants failed to win a single trophy and exited the Champions League with a humiliating 8-2 quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich.

It appears the talismanic number 10 will now move on just two years after his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo left Madrid for Serie A giants Juventus.

Calderon told Stats Perform News: "It would be really hurtful for the image, the quality, the show [in LaLiga if Messi went].

"We have been really lucky having Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi playing in our league for the past 10 years, the best two players in the world by far.

"They won't be here anymore, neither of them will be with us. It is really hurtful for our league and for the fans."

Calderon revealed his surprise at Messi's request, although he acknowledged the scale of Barca's recent failings made the move understandable.

"Recent events have surely made Messi upset," he said. "It is a weird time because he is a winner, as Barcelona used to be.

"The defeat against Bayern has hurt him a lot, for sure. That makes Messi reconsider his future, especially because there will be a World Cup in two years. I am sure he is aiming to be there and to win the cup.

"So, he has probably thought the future of Barcelona is not the best for his goals and he takes that decision.

"It has been a bit shocking for me because I thought he had already decided to finish his career at Barcelona, but it looks like these latest actions have influenced him to leave the club."

In 2015, Lionel Messi and Barcelona were on top of the world.

Led by Messi - alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez in a devastating 122-goal attack - the Blaugrana claimed their second treble with Champions League success, then making them the first European club to achieve such a feat.

The Club World Cup title followed for Luis Enrique's side, but such supremely high standards were not maintained.

Five years later, the 'MSN' front line has long since been broken up by Neymar's departure - and now Messi intends to follow his former colleague out of Camp Nou.

Barca did not win a single trophy in a 2019-20 campaign that ended in humiliation with the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich that prompted Quique Setien's sacking before Messi's shock transfer request.

Just where has it all gone wrong for one of the world's biggest clubs? We take a look.
 

JUNE 2015: Barca batter Bianconeri in Berlin

Suarez's 2014 move from Liverpool had been a roaring success for Barca even before they took to the field against Juventus in the Champions League final. Linking up with Messi and Neymar to great effect, an ambitious attacking approach made them arguably even better on the eye than Pep Guardiola's outstanding 2008-09 team.

Then Barca took Juve apart in Berlin with goals from Ivan Rakitic, another new signing, Suarez and Neymar and history was theirs. It appeared Messi and Co could do no wrong.

APRIL 2016: Wobble costs European crown

Barca's serene progress continued into the next season and, heading into April, they had lost just three times in all competitions, in the process becoming world champions for the third time - again a record at that stage.

But the Blaugrana then sensationally lost four of their first five matches in April. Three straight LaLiga defeats did not cost Luis Enrique's men the title, but the Champions League quarter-final second-leg reverse at the hands of Atletico Madrid ended their continental dominance amid a Messi goal drought.

APRIL 2017: Neymar's rescue act proves in vain

It was in the 2016-17 campaign that Luis Enrique's reign came to an end, with news of his impending departure confirmed in early March. Neymar did his utmost to send the coach in style, though, with a heroic performance against future employers Paris Saint-Germain, a dramatic late brace teeing up the remarkable 6-5 aggregate win in the Champions League.

That triumph kept Barca's latest treble bid on track, but it soon faltered. They lost 3-0 at Juve in April and were shut out in the return leg, while rivals Real Madrid marched towards the domestic championship, seeing Luis Enrique bow out in relatively underwhelming fashion.

AUGUST 2017: Selecao superstar stuns the world

Crucially, Luis Enrique was not the only man to depart Camp Nou at the end of the 2016-17 season. Neymar appeared to enjoy his role as the main man in the PSG tie, so the Brazil superstar traded Barcelona for Paris in a stunning €222million move.

The huge fee seemed to burn a hole in the Blaugrana's pocket as the first of several unsuccessful attempts to replace Neymar took them to Germany to buy Ousmane Dembele. Philippe Coutinho followed in January, with the duo struggling for form and/or fitness.

APRIL 2018: Roma remontada ruins campaign

Barca won back the LaLiga title under Ernesto Valverde in 2017-18, also claiming the Copa del Rey, yet their season still ended in disappointment in what would become an extremely concerning theme.

Valverde's outfit won 4-1 at home to Roma in the Champions League quarter-finals to all but seal their progress, only to incredibly go down 3-0 in Italy and crash out, extending Messi's wait for a fifth European triumph by another year.

MAY 2019: Reds inflict humiliating repeat

The next season felt far too familiar for Messi and Barca. In 2015, winning had felt second nature. By 2019, even the most extraordinary of collapses seemed very on-brand.

After failing to bring back Neymar and instead blowing a huge sum on Malcom, yet still easing to LaLiga glory, Barca remarkably again threw away a three-goal advantage in the Champions League. Liverpool overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit in the semis with a 4-0 Anfield success as the Catalan side imploded once more.

FEBRUARY 2020: Abidal at war with Messi

Matters on the field were relatively steady this term prior to January's Supercopa de Espana defeat to Atletico Madrid, with Barca still in control of the league title race. But then Valverde was sacked and sporting director Eric Abidal made the mistake of blaming the squad for not working hard enough.

Messi responded with indignation and a hugely damaging feud was launched via a series of back-and-forth comments and briefings, appearing to publicly place significant strain on the club's relationship with their talisman for the first time.

AUGUST 2020: Bayern loss the breaking point

Relations were still a little rocky between Messi and the board through football's coronavirus-related shutdown, but for all Barca's troubles in recent years, their ability to rely on one of the greatest players in the history of the sport has so often been a saving grace. Messi dragged them past Napoli in the Champions League.

But even a Barcelona lifer like the great number 10 appears to have a breaking point. The 8-2 humbling at the hands of Bayern meant even the departures of Setien and Abidal could not convince Messi to stick around and influence a mammoth rebuild, with Suarez also set to depart.

Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona of his desire to leave but new arrival Francisco Trincao hopes the club captain remains at Camp Nou.

Barca agreed a €31million move for Trincao in January, with the 20-year-old attacker spending the remainder of the 2019-20 season at Braga.

He was presented to the media on Wednesday but much of the attention was focused on Messi, who wants to make use of a break clause in his contract.

Fans gathered outside of club offices on Tuesday to call for the resignation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who was present for a ceremonial contract signing with Trincao but left newly appointed sporting director Ramon Planes to face questions from the media.

Planes said the club were still intending to build their squad around Messi and were doing their utmost to retain his services.

Trincao expressed his excitement at joining Barca and hopes he will get the chance to play alongside the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"Of course I want him to stay. We'll see what happens," said Trincao.

"I arrived two weeks ago and I'm here to do my job and be a benchmark for this club.

"I am very happy to be here and I hope to be able to have many games, goals and assists.

"Everyone has had their story and I want to create mine and make history."

Messi's decision came after his close friend Luis Suarez was reportedly told by new coach Ronald Koeman he should find a new club.

Trincao is yet to speak to Koeman to find out what sort of role he can expect in his first season in LaLiga.

"I have to talk to the coach first, but I can play in all of the attacking positions," said Trincao.

"I feel comfortable in all of them and I am here to help. We'll see what the coach wants from me."

Lionel Messi has told Barcelona he wants to leave the club. The end of an era is, seemingly, in sight and that will usher in a strange new world, for Barca and his next employers.

Unsurprisingly, debates have raged ever since the news came to light on Tuesday, with Barca receiving communication that their talisman, the most iconic player in their modern history, wants out.

In some ways it was predictable. The turmoil engulfing Barca's hierarchy and their decision making in the past few years looked destined to come to a head – there would be major consequences, and Messi leaving was always going to be the worst-case scenario.

Whether he does or not is a different matter. Some believe his request is a power-play to oust president Josep Maria Bartomeu early, and there are plenty calling for his resignation.

But, for arguably the first time, Messi leaving Barca appears a real possibility What will determine his next destination? Romance? Trophies? Vengeance?

If it's the latter, given almost every football club's Twitter account is throwing their hat in the ring, we have a few tongue-in-cheek destinations in mind, however unlikely they may be…

Real Madrid

Imagine the chaos, the hysteria. If Barca's board have angered him so much, what better way to really get his own back on them? Moving to the Santiago Bernabeu would be a remarkable switch, the ultimate act of vengeance. Luis Figo had a pig's head thrown towards him when he returned to Camp Nou after joining Madrid – you can only wonder at what reception would await Messi if he were to commit the cardinal sin of crossing that divide. 

Stoke City

There is a running joke in England that Messi "wouldn't be able to do it on a wet and windy night in Stoke". It derives from pundit Andy Gray, who in 2010 claimed – without a hint of irony – that Messi would "struggle on a cold night at the Britannia Stadium". His comment became embellished, but was regularly used as a stick to beat Messi with by Premier League fans who wanted to accentuate the physicality of England's elite division. Based on the idea Stoke were scrappy and the city sees more than its fair share of bad weather, as well as the stadium's renown for being windy, it was seen as the Premier League's grimmest away trip. After earning millions every season for the past 15 years or so, why not take a modest deal to prove he can in fact do it on a wet and windy night in Stoke?

Napoli

While Manchester City appear to be leading the chase, Inter are also being strongly linked with Messi. But a different Serie A move that would capture the imagination even more would be joining Napoli. Not only would Messi's arrival get one over on long-standing rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who would no longer be the solo big ticket in Serie A, it would give him the chance dispel some other demons. For much of his career Messi has contended with people saying he's not at Diego Maradona's level – maybe it's time to disprove such claims where El Pibe de Oro left his greatest mark…

Borussia Dortmund

For all of Messi's apparent issues with the Barca board, it seems unlikely that he doesn't still love the club – after all, he was signed up as a 12-year-old. The 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich earlier this month will have hurt, particularly as it looks like being his final match for the club. How better to get revenge than to move to Die Roten's arch-rivals Dortmund? He could be the final piece of the puzzle that finally overthrows Bayern's Bundesliga dominance.

Manchester City have refused to comment on reports linking them with wantaway Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Messi sent shockwaves through world football when he informed Barca via burofax on Tuesday that he wanted to leave, putting several clubs on high alert.

A reunion with Pep Guardiola at City has been mooted, but the club declined to comment when contacted by Stats Perform News. It is believed they do not want to take a public position on such a high-profile story.

Guardiola has previously stated his belief that Messi would, and indeed should, see out his career at Camp Nou, where he is the all-time leading goalscorer.

"He is a player from Barcelona and he will stay there, that's my wish for him to stay there," he said in February.

"I'm not going to talk about players playing for other clubs. I think he will finish his career there, that's my wish."

However, the notion that Guardiola would turn down the chance to sign arguably the world's greatest player following a season in which his side lost out to Liverpool in the Premier League, and again failed in the Champions League, seems absurd.

With his reputation at Barca still firmly intact following a fine playing career and a spell at the helm during which the club were twice crowned champions of Europe, Guardiola will not want to be seen to be actively pursuing Messi.

That would explain any outward reticence, but it is unlikely the Etihad Stadium club would not be considering an approach.

Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has only recently outlined a new transfer policy expanding the club's search beyond the usual age range of 20- to 25-year-olds, putting a 33-year-old Messi firmly on the agenda.

City are not the only club to have been linked to Messi, with Champions League runners-up and fellow financial heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain said to be in the mix, along with Inter.

Staying at Barca remains an option, but Messi is clearly unhappy and there has been no indication that Josep Maria Bartomeu is willing to step aside, with the president having overseen a staffing overhaul that brought Ronald Koeman to the helm this month.

Quite what the Dutchman will be making of this transfer saga in the early days of his reign is anyone's guess.

With or without Messi, Koeman has a rebuilding job on his hands, the scale of which was underlined by Barca's humiliating 8-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich, a result that probably hastened the talisman's decision to send that now famous fax.

Barcelona are still trying to convince Lionel Messi to stay at the club and expect him to attend training when sessions resume, according to sporting director Ramon Planes.

Messi rocked Barcelona on Tuesday when it emerged the six-time Ballon d'Or winner informed the club he would like to leave.

The 33-year-old reportedly intends to activate a clause in his contract that would allow him to unilaterally terminate their agreement following the 2019-20 season and join another club.

While it was required to be activated before the end of May, Messi told the club he still intends to make use of it as the season was extended into August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Planes, promoted to his role following Eric Abidal's dismissal last week, says Barca have not given up hope of continuing their association with Messi.

Lionel Messi could be on the brink of a seismic transfer away from Barcelona.

The 33-year-old has informed the club he wants to leave in a move that has stunned the football world.

Remarkably, he could walk away for nothing and would evidently have a free pick for his next destination.

In his long-running battle with Cristiano Ronaldo for GOAT status, Messi is often criticised for not having plied his trade outside of his Camp Nou comfort zone.

But could leaving the Catalan giants tarnish Messi's legacy? We look at how other legends who moved late in their careers have fared.

PELE

Having scored goals at a scarcely believable rate in his home country for Santos, the Brazilian legend moved to the North American Soccer League at the age of 34.

While his spell with New York Cosmos was not quite as prolific, the switch enhanced his status as a global superstar and earned Pele stacks of cash.

It has to be concluded that this late-career transfer was a shrewd move for the three-time World Cup winner.

 

DIEGO MARADONA

Okay, so Maradona's legacy was already somewhat corroded by his off-field antics and a lengthy ban after testing positive for cocaine.

But to return to Boca Juniors 13 years after departing for Barcelona was a threat to his legendary status at that club. Still, he took that risk at the age of 35 and added another chapter to his remarkable story.

Maradona's last game proved to be a Superclasico win over River Plate. A fitting finale indeed.

JOHAN CRUYFF

Angered by Ajax's decision not to offer him a contract extension at the end of the 1982-83 season, a 36-year-old Cruyff promptly signed for rivals Feyenoord.

He may have incurred the wrath of his former employers, but Cruyff's decision was a smart one as he starred alongside a young Ruud Gullit to help Feyenoord win the Eredivisie.

For a man who liked to do things his own way, this was a twilight-years move that truly paid dividends.

 

CRISTIANO RONALDO

Taking on new challenges has never held any fear for Ronaldo, but it is clear he did not join Juventus just to spearhead their continued dominance of Serie A.

He has won honours in Portugal, England, Spain, Italy and on the international stage, but it is the Champions League title he craves in Turin. It would be his sixth.

Nobody, save perhaps for the most ardent Messi fan, would argue that Ronaldo's career will have tailed off if he does not achieve that goal, but at 35 the clock is ticking on his last great mission.

 

ALFREDO DI STEFANO

An Argentinian forward leaves club where he is the greatest ever player after a humiliating defeat in Europe – sound familiar?

Di Stefano was offered a place on the Real Madrid coaching staff by president Santiago Bernabeu after the 3-1 European Cup final defeat to Inter in 1964. Already suffering a strained relationship with head coach Miguel Munoz, he opted to extend his playing career at Espanyol.

Two fairly underwhelming seasons battling against relegation followed, marking an underwhelming end to a stunning career.

Lionel Messi will only stay at Barcelona if Josep Maria Bartomeu resigns, according to presidential candidate Victor Font.

Messi rocked Barcelona on Tuesday when it emerged the six-time Ballon d'Or winner informed the club he wants to leave.

The 33-year-old reportedly has a clause in his contract that would allow him to unilaterally terminate their agreement following the 2019-20 season in order to join another club.

While it was required to be activated before the end of May, Messi told the Catalan giants he still intends to make use of the clause as the season was extended into August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to reports, Messi suggested to new head coach Ronald Koeman last week that he was leaning towards a departure, and it is thought he committed to that decision after close friend Luis Suarez was apparently told his services were no longer required.

Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Inter are thought to be the most likely options for him, though Font still feels Barca have a chance to change Messi's mind if president Bartomeu – who is set to leave his post after the club's elections next March – quits immediately.

"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.

"Messi has been here for 20 years, making that decision will have cost him a lot but it indicates his degree of frustration here.

"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.

"Messi's entourage has told me that the decision is firm. This is not a matter of two days ago, it is before the defeat in Lisbon. We already warned that it could happen."

Lionel Messi "already has a new team" and will join Inter instead of Manchester City, according to the agent who instigated his move to Barcelona as a youngster.

Messi rocked Barcelona – and all of world football – on Tuesday when it emerged the six-time Ballon d'Or winner informed the club he wants to leave.

The 33-year-old is reported to have had a clause in his contract that would allow him to unilaterally terminate their agreement following the 2019-20 season in order to join another club.

While it was required to be activated before the end of May, Messi told the Catalan giants he still intends to make use of the clause as the season was extended into August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Messi reportedly suggested to new head coach Ronald Koeman last week that he was leaning towards a departure, and it is thought he committed to that decision after close friend Luis Suarez was apparently told his services were no longer required.

Ever since the news broke on Tuesday, speculation has run wild as to where his next destination could be, and although City and Paris Saint-Germain have been considered among the favourites, a key man from Messi's past believes he will go to Inter.

Josep Maria Minguella, the agent who secured Messi's signing for Barca as a 12-year-old with an agreement written on a napkin, told Cadena COPE: "For me, Messi already has a team: Inter.

"In Italy they pay less tax, and in fact, there is Cristiano Ronaldo. It's harder for me to see him in England, no matter how long his friend [Sergio] Aguero and [Pep] Guardiola are at City.

"Now in Italy they are trying to revitalise the world of football with great signings and with these advantages in the advertising contracts of the football players.

"What Barca has to do is rethink its situation. If with Leo Messi they didn't know where the team's course was going to go, imagine it without him."

Messi has one year left on his Barca contract, an agreement that is reportedly worth approximately €1million a week when bonuses are included.

Lionel Messi wants to leave Barcelona, but where will he go?

Manchester United, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus are possible destinations.

But, both Manchester clubs are believed to be targeting the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE MESSI, BUT LIONEL WANTS CITY

Manchester United are in position to sign wantaway Barcelona captain Lionel Messi, according to Deportes Cuatro.

Messi wants to sensationally leave embattled LaLiga giants Barca and United are reportedly one of the clubs capable of signing the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

However, The Athletic claims neighbours Manchester City and Messi have held talks, with the superstar open to playing for Pep Guardiola again.

Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Telegraph reports Real Madrid outcast James Rodriguez is close to joining Everton. James has previously worked under Carlo Ancelotti at Bayern Munich and Madrid.

Chelsea will complete the signing of Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell, says Fabrizio Romano. The transfer will be announced soon as Chelsea also look to bring in Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz and PSG captain Thiago Silva.

- Calciomercato claims Zlatan Ibrahimovic is close to signing a new deal with Milan. The 38-year-old is out of contract after returning to Milan for a second spell in January.

Barca want City's Gabriel Jesus to replace veteran forward Luis Suarez, according to Globo Esporte. Suarez has been told he can leave Camp Nou, and former club Ajax are reportedly trying to re-sign the Uruguayan.

Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars said the club's chances of re-signing Barcelona star Luis Suarez are "quite small".

Suarez, 33, has reportedly been told he is not part of Barca's plans as new head coach Ronald Koeman tries to rebuild the embattled LaLiga giants.

Ajax have emerged as a possible destination for Suarez, who spent four years playing for the Eredivisie champions before joining Liverpool in 2011.

Amid speculation Ajax are in talks to bring Suarez back to Amsterdam, Overmars addressed the rumours.

"Let me put it this way: the chance that he will come is quite small," Overmars told Ziggo Sport as Ajax defeated Hertha Berlin 1-0 in Tuesday's friendly.

"That's a straight answer, I think. Whether there has been any contact with him? We have that with several ex-Ajax players. That is logical, you also have to maintain that."

Suarez, who won the Eredivisie and KNVB Cup during his time at Ajax, has celebrated four LaLiga titles and the Champions League among other honours since moving to Barca in 2014.

Overmars, meanwhile, was also asked about in-demand Ajax star Donny van de Beek.

Van de Beek has been linked to Manchester United and Real Madrid, though Barca are believed to be eyeing the Netherlands international following Koeman's appointment.

"No idea, at least that hasn't made it onto my plate yet," Overmars said when quizzed on Barca's rumoured interest.

Overmars added: "It's pretty quiet. I certainly think the market has yet to get going. That makes sense: the Champions League has only just ended, so that will start soon. 

"There is always interest for some players. A few players look good, one player has fairly serious interest. Who that is? That will show itself in the coming weeks."

Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart insisted Lionel Messi cannot leave the embattled LaLiga giants on a free transfer as he hit out at the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Messi has sensationally told Barca he wants to leave the club, who replaced Quique Setien with Ronald Koeman after they were dethroned by Real Madrid in LaLiga and humiliated by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

The 33-year-old's contract runs until June 2021 and is said to have a clause in his deal that allowed him to leave on a free transfer at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

It was required to be activated before the end of May but, due to the season being extended into August amid the coronavirus pandemic, Messi has told the Catalan giants he still intends to make use of it.

However, Gaspart – who was president of Barca between 2000 and 2003 – told Marca: "[Messi] cannot leave. He will have to leave in 2021.

"I have seen the contract and it is very clear. The clause ended in June and there is no going back.

"I prefer him to leave next year for zero than to go now for less than €700m.

"The club is in charge here, not the player. The club paid the players. And this is not a matter of money, there is a signed contract and that's it."

Having spent his entire professional career with Barca, Messi has been linked with a return to Argentina to play for boyhood club Newell's Old Boys in his hometown of Rosario.

A reunion with former Barca boss Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has also been mooted, while Inter have been long-term admirers. According to TyC Sports, a move to MLS could also be on the cards.

Messi is Barca's all-time leading scorer with 634 goals and 276 assists in 731 appearances in all competitions for the club.

The Argentina international made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old in 2004 and has won 34 trophies at Camp Nou.

"I love Messi very much, but I love Barcelona more," Gaspart said. "Let the clause be paid. They did it to me one night treacherously with [Luis] Figo and I did the same with Rivaldo, because I loved Barcelona.

"And here it's the same. There is a clause of €700m and the contracts are signed to fulfil them. I understand there is pressure from others for him to leave, but if I were the president of Barcelona then I wouldn't negotiate a euro.

"If Messi leaves for less than what his clause is worth it will be more humiliating than the 8-2 [defeat]. And Messi should not forget that the fans love Barcelona more than the player. And if Messi leaves next year, well, bad luck, he goes aged 34."

Gaspart added: "I don't understand why he is leaving Barcelona. Well, I do understand because I know these plays by football players well.

"We all want him to stay at Barcelona. Doesn't he want to stay? What's going on? Are the millions of club members who ask him to stay not worth it? Does he think that Barcelona have not helped him to be what he is?

"Messi is loved a lot and I hope he will enjoy one more year [at Barcelona]. I'd rather him go for free next year than this one for €699m. They shouldn't lower [his price] €1."

Lionel Messi's incredible Barcelona career appears set to come to a remarkable end after the Argentina great informed the club he wishes to leave Camp Nou.

Messi made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old and has gone on to become Barca's all-time leading scorer with 634 goals and 276 assists in 731 appearances in all competitions for the club.

His incredible feats in front of goal have helped him win 34 trophies with the Catalan club, but Stats Perform News has learned he has committed to a decision to activate a clause to leave on a free transfer at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Barca's campaign ended in a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, with the arrival of club legend Ronald Koeman as the replacement for Quique Setien seemingly not enough to convince Messi to stay.

Messi's goals have solidified his status as an all-time great and here is a look at a chronological top 10 from the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's collection.

Albacete (H): May 1, 2005

Even at 17, Messi had the confidence of a veteran. Having already seen one goal wrongly ruled out for offside - an audacious chip from the edge of the box - Messi's confidence was far from knocked and just a minute later he latched onto Ronaldinho's scooped pass before lobbing the ball over Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena from 16 yards. Some way to open your account for one of Europe's great clubs.

Malaga (H): March 22, 2009

Thierry Henry's favourite goal by Messi during their time playing together for Barca. Why not let the France great take up the story? "It defied logic what he did," Henry said in the 'Take the Ball, Pass the Ball' documentary. "There's a diagonal ball and he controls it on his chest. He runs full speed, then the first player goes and the second player is just behind. If he takes another step, that player will clear the ball." A shimmy of the body and deft touch later – in the blink of an eye – Messi stabbed into the top corner to conclude a moment of 100-miles-per-hour brilliance.

Real Zaragoza (A): March 21, 2010

Described by some as 'a defining goal' in his career, this strike against Zaragoza seemed to take him from very good into another class entirely. Messi displayed all he had to offer in a goal that began when he won the ball from a tackle at halfway. From there, he shrugged off one challenge, raced towards the box and turned a defender inside out before drilling into the far corner, leaving coach Pep Guardiola speechless.

Real Madrid (A): April 27, 2011

At the height of the Clasico rivalry between Guardiola's Barca and Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid, the two teams met four times in three different competitions in less than a month. The league meeting ended in a draw and Madrid won the Copa del Rey final, but Barca triumphed in the Champions League semi-final with a 3-1 aggregate win. The first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, an ill-tempered affair to say the least, saw Messi make it 2-0 by bursting beyond four attempted challenges and slotting past Iker Casillas, all in the space of around five seconds.

Athletic Bilbao (A): April 27, 2013

Barca would regain their LaLiga title from Madrid but were in the midst of a Champions League semi-final shellacking from Bayern when they arrived at San Mames. A goal down in a match that would eventually finish 2-2, Messi received possession from Thiago Alcantara, twisted past Mikel San Jose, Carlos Gurpegui and Ander Herrera with minimal space in which to operate before nonchalantly side-footing home from just inside the penalty area.

Bayern Munich (H): May 6, 2015

Guardiola returned to Camp Nou with a Bayern side struggling with injury problems. They kept Barca at bay until the 77th minute of this Champions League semi-final first leg, when Messi finally struck. It was his second goal that earns a place in this list, though: collecting Ivan Rakitic's pass, a simple-looking shimmy left Jerome Boateng on his backside before he chipped Manuel Neuer with his weaker foot.

Real Madrid (A): April 23, 2017

El Clasico rarely disappoints for football fans around the globe, and this edition was no different. Anything but a win would essentially hand Madrid the title, and it looked to be headed for a 2-2 draw until Sergi Roberto's swashbuckling run in stoppage time gave Jordi Alba the chance to square to Messi, who finished with aplomb from the edge of the area for his 500th Barcelona goal.

Real Betis (A): March 17, 2019

Rarely has a hat-trick been completed in finer fashion. Messi's two goals had helped Barca to a 3-1 lead at the Benito Villamarin, before he passed to Rakitic, ran onto the return ball and sent a first-time chip over goalkeeper Pau Lopez and in off the crossbar from just inside the box. It was a sublime effort that even had the home fans on the feet, applauding - something Messi himself admitted he had not experienced before.

Liverpool (H): May 1, 2019

Over the past few years, Messi has mastered the art of free-kick taking, with the skill being one of few to elude him in his younger days. Liverpool held their own for long periods at Camp Nou but goals from Luis Suarez and Messi gave the hosts breathing space. Jurgen Klopp's side then had to bow to greatness when, after being brought down by Fabinho, Barca's talisman swept an unstoppable 30-yard effort into the top corner. Barcelona would incredibly blow their 3-0 first-leg advantage, however, losing 4-0 at Anfield as Liverpool reached the Champions League final.

Atletico Madrid (A): December 1, 2019

It was goalless in the 86th minute at the Wanda Metropolitano when Messi collected the ball on the right flank, 10 yards inside the Atletico half. Those famous feet began to shuffle with purpose, and although Atletico knew what Messi had in mind, they were powerless to resist the execution of his plan. Messi surged on, playing the ball to Luis Suarez on the edge of the penalty area before taking the return pass and cracking a brilliant 20-yard shot into the bottom left corner of Jan Oblak's goal. A winner, and one of the highest class.

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