Despite years of rumors linking Lionel Messi to Manchester City, they have never been more real than right now, with multiple sources confirming that the player has informed Barcelona of his desire to leave.
According to reports and official “goodbyes” from Carles Puyol and Luis Suárez on Twitter, it appears Lionel Messi’s legendary tenure in Catalonia has reached the end, with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in best position to sign the best player in the world.
Rumors have been flying of a potential Messi departure since Barcelona were humiliated 8-2 by eventual Champions League winners Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals. Following blowing three-goal first leg advantages in two consecutive years in Europe to Roma and Liverpool, Messi has rightly seen that the club have not given him the support he deserves, and if he is to win the Champions League again, he must look elsewhere.
Among Europe’s best sides, three contenders have emerged. Among them, Manchester City are reportedly the best positioned, and it would seem a brilliant fit into his former boss Guardiola’s free-flowing system. Champions League finalists PSG have also been mentioned for a potential reunion with Neymar as well as forming another of football’s deadliest attacking tridents alongside Kylian Mbappé. Finally, it has also been rumored that a dark horse contender could be Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan, where he would reignite his rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo in Italy.
Out of these options, City makes the most sense in my opinion. Inter’s squad is simply not a significant upgrade over Barcelona’s right now, and given the club’s lack of recent success, is a seriously risky move. PSG does have some merit, but Thomas Tuchel is not on Guardiola’s level, and the French champions would be extremely top-heavy, and not be as good in midfield or defense as City could be next season.
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Messi had a clause that allowed him to terminate his contract and leave on a free, but it expired in June. He has reportedly asked the club for that agreement to be honored in light of the delayed season, which would allow him to become a free agent and choose any club. Barcelona have held an emergency meeting to determine the best path forward.
Given the strength of these reports, it appears all but sealed that for the first time in his professional career, Lionel Messi will not be wearing a Barcelona shirt next season. His next destination will change the landscape of the football world, and City appear to be in prime position to make a game-changing move. Watch this space.