Considered perhaps the greatest player of his generation, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has become synonymous with everything Catalans over the last 11 years. He’s racked up three Champions League medals, a record 273 goals and claimed Ballon d’Or honors three times in a Barcelona kit, but that doesn’t mean Messi will always call Nou Camp home.
Referencing two of the highest spending clubs in the world, one top Barcelona official wouldn’t rule out the 27-year-old Messi leaving La Liga one day.
"I think that it's nearly impossible that [he] can leave, but with City and PSG that have so much money, [it] can happen,” the Catalans new international sporting director Ariedo Braida said to a Spanish television station. "Sometimes strange things happen. He is a phenomenon, an extra-terrestrial comparable to Maradona and Pele."
As recently as January, Messi has been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City and PSG, but the unfathomable fee necessary to pry him away from the Catalans remains a major sticking point.
For one, Messi is the highest paid player in the world and his release clause would likely cost as much as £205 million, according to The Guardian, a sum that many teams don’t even spend on their entire roster.
The fee is so high obviously because of Messi’s skill and success, but also because his contract with Barcelona won’t expire until June 2019.
However, Messi stoked the fire of speculation with his comments at the Ballon d’Or ceremony in January.
“I am not sure If I will go back to [his boyhood club] Newell’s Old Boys one day,” Messi said. “I am not sure where I will be next year. I have always said that I will end my career at Barcelona but as Cristiano [Ronaldo] said: ‘Only God knows the future.’ Things in football can change overnight.”
Messi may have an interest in taking on new challenges. He’s already mastered La Liga, winning the Spanish league six times, and has also set numerous scoring records.
Moving on and winning in England could be enough motivation to entice Messi. The Premier League has emerged as among the more entertaining and competitive leagues in Europe, and could offer Messi perhaps an even more lucrative deal. It also could be hugely benefical to a club's image. Manchester City, a high-payroll club that competes with local rival Manchester United, have interest in adding an international superstar to lure fans to the club.