Lionel Messi: A Look at His Past, Present & Possible Future

Lead Photo: Lionel Messi of Barcelona rues a missed chance during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Betis at the Camp Nou, on May 13, 2007 in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Bagu Blanco/Getty Images
Lionel Messi of Barcelona rues a missed chance during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Betis at the Camp Nou, on May 13, 2007 in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Bagu Blanco/Getty Images

Translation by Julia Pretsfelder. Puedes leer este texto en español aquí

Talking about trades at this time of year is normal in the soccer world, but when we talk about how Lionel Messi may leave the Catalán club, we’re talking about the most important global sports news in the 21st century.

The 33-year-old Argentine began his career in Barcelona on September 14th, 2000, when his father legally committed—by signing a napkin—that the ‘Astro’ would form part of ‘La Masía’, Barça’s training academy.

There, his dream began; furthermore, the story of the player who would bring the most happiness to FCB (Fútbol Club of Barcelona) and who is considered by many lovers of the sport to be el crack—the G.O.A.T.

To say Messi is to say soccer. He’s a striker, he plays wing, he’s a forward, he’s a versatile and impressive player who incites overflowing passion. Because of this, every bit of news related to him reverberates in every corner of the world.

Since 2010, something strange began to take place in Barcelona—a rumor that Messi would leave the team started to spread. But, it was all resolved in 2011 with the renewal of his contract for three more years, accompanied by a raise of millions of dollars in salary. So, this is what happened every third year around the sun. They said he might leave the team in 2013, and in 2014 he renewed his contract. They said he might leave in 2016, and he renewed in 2017. They said he’d leave in 2019, and in 2020… he’s closer than ever to leaving.

Maybe the fact that his contract may be renewed has made his detractors uncomfortable but, as a club, sacrifices need to be made to maintain the player who makes the franchise, and that’s what Barcelona has always done—try to satisfy any of Lionel Messi’s needs. Furthermore, there shouldn’t be any criticism because their ‘10’ has a spotless résumé as a sportsman both on and off the field.

Lionel Messi of Barcelona plays the ball during the match between FC Barcelona and Malaga of the Spanish Primera Liga at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won 2-0. Photo by Luis Bagu/Getty Images

The club ‘Culé’ has been on the decline for many seasons now. They haven’t won the Champions League since 2015 but, they beat their biggest rival, Real Madrid, winning the most important cup, on three occasions. The fall has also been economic, at least in the last few years, since Barcelona has lost faith in what has always characterized them, epitomized by Messi himself: cultivating talents and exploiting them to the fullest.

For example, the club, under the leadership of Josep Maria Bartomeu, has wasted around 358 million euros on Ousmane Dembélé (sub), Antoine Griezmann (sub), and Philippe Coutinho (lent to Bayern Munich). They’ve spent this money on players and trainers who don’t have the same philosophy of “fútbol total,” aka 11 players who connect through their similar visions for the game and who play it well together.

To add to this already difficult situation, we have to add another recent, historic fact: the 8-2 defeat of Barça against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. A historic humiliation against the team that would end up winning the entire tournament—a game in which Messi practically disappeared and was targeted by all of his critics because they did not see him raise the spirits of his team when they needed their captain.

This likely made Lionel Messi, who in 2017 affirmed, “This is my home. I always wanted to spend my whole career here, and I’ve always said that my dream is to end it in Barcelona,” want to leave.

There are five possibilities for Messi’s future:

  1. Stay in Barcelona, but only if Josep María Bartomeu leaves.
  2. Go to Manchester City, the club led by Pep Guardiola—the trainer whom he spent the most time with in Barcelona (2008-2012); especially considering that Manchester City is a multimillionaire team that could pay the 30+ million euros that Messi charges annually.
  3. Go to Paris Saint-Germain, another team that would have no problem supporting him economically.
  4. Go to Inter Milan, a team that has been financially reborn with Chinese investment and that could grow more with a figure such as the captain of Argentine national team.
  5. The intimate decision to retire from soccer, at best in the style of Michael Jordan in 1998, but this is pretty unlikely due to our Rosario-born hero’s hunger for Argentina’s victory on the national level.

We’ll keep you updated as more information rolls in.