5 potential moves for Lionel Messi as star ‘wants to leave Barcelona immediately’

For the first time ever, it suddenly looks quite real.

Lionel Messi’s future has been a subject up for debate before now, but in the wake of Barcelona ’s 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, as well as issues off the pitch at the club, the whispers that he could walk away from the Nou Camp are getting louder and louder.

The bond between the Catalan giants and their global icon has been stretching for a good few years now, and the Bayern loss may just have brought things into focus for Messi as he considers turning his back on a club mired in issues.

But if he was to leave, then where would he go?

The very idea of him not in a Barcelona shirt does seem a strange one, but would some of these moves actually make sense at this point in his career, or should he stay put?

Manchester City: They both looked pretty fed up with their current lot in life over in Lisbon, so can Pep Guardiola and Messi find solace in each other’s arms?

City have essentially been given the green light to keep spending by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and this deal would top anything they’ve ever done before should they move to make it happen.

There are plenty of reasons why they shouldn’t do it – Messi is 33, and his motivation could be an issue – but there’s also one pretty solid reason why they should.

Just the thought of it, basically.

Inter Milan: The Italians have quietly been linked with a move for Messi over the last couple of seasons, with their name almost just hovering in the background as a kind of threat when it comes to contract negotiations.

Could there be something in it though?

Few people, after all, considered the possibility of Cristiano Ronaldo moving to Serie A until he went and did it, and seeing the old rivalry play out again on the Italian stage would be something special.

With the club not short of money, and Messi’s old Argentina teammate Javier Zanetti on board as vice-president, there’s a possibility there.

Newell’s Old Boys: The romantic option would see the Newell’s Old Boys old boy make a dramatic return to his boyhood club.

Messi broke all sorts of youth records during his time at the Rosario-based outfit as a youngster, scoring an estimated 500 goals at various levels after he arrived at aged six.

He would leave for Barca in 2000, but while the prospect of a return is something that has been suggested in the past, you just think that this might not be the right time.

Newell’s – who play at the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa (and no we’re not including Leeds in this list) – aren’t exactly at their best right now, and Messi would surely find more lucrative offers elsewhere.

Al-Sadd: In Qatar, for starters.

His old Barca skipper Xavi is still in charge of Al-Sadd, and he and his entirely Spanish backroom staff will perhaps be trying to bend Messi’s ear over a move to the Middle East.

Former Arsenal star Santi Cazorla has already made that switch this summer, and you can bet that the Qatari authorities would be delighted to have Messi on board to boost the perception of football in the country ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

It still all feels a bit… surreal though doesn’t it?

Messi isn’t ageless, but a move to a league such as this one doesn’t quite sit right for him just yet, and that’s before you get into the political row it would doubtless provoke.

Staying at Barcelona: For now then, the most likely destination remains a pretty awkward sit down meeting with the Barca hierarchy and a discussion over just what is going on.

The club have been drifting for the past couple of years now, and seemingly milking Messi’s talents rather than creating a structure for them to thrive in.

Another new manager will be a given, but it needs to be someone with a fresh way of thinking and a way of inspiring an icon who, hand on heart, surely doesn’t actually want to leave the stage on which he has become the greatest of them all.

Barca can still sell themselves to Messi because of his deep affection for the club, but they’re going to have to get their house in order pretty soon before a potentially rash decision is made.