Will Lionel Messi leave Barcelona? Contract and free transfer options assessed
Lionel Messi's Barcelona contract is set to expire and a transfer from the Nou Camp appears to be on the cards.
It's difficult to imagine Barcelona without Lionel Messi – but that is a real and growing possibility ahead of next season.
The 33-year-old attempted to force an exit from the Nou Camp in 2020 and has less than six months left to run on his contract so he could soon be turning out for a new club.
The public spat with Barcelona last summer highlighted Messi's unhappiness at the Blaugrana's lack of direction and decline in recent years.
A soft reboot at management levels has not revived the club's fortunes and suitors are becoming increasingly hopeful of signing one of the best football players in the world on a free transfer.
RadioTimes.com has rounded up everything you need to know about Messi's contract situation at Barcelona.
How much money does Lionel Messi earn at Barcelona?
The 33-year-old is the highest-paid footballer in world football.
It's estimated Barcelona fork out an eye-watering annual sum of around £67m for his services.
When does Lionel Messi's Barcelona contract expire?
Messi's contract officially ends on Wednesday 30th June 2021, at which point he will become an unattached free agent, the most sought after freebie in the history of sport.
He is currently free to discuss pre-contract terms with clubs outside Spain right now – but there are no plans to prematurely line up a move.
"I will not negotiate with other clubs. I will wait for the season to end and in June I will decide," Messi said in December 2020.
Does Lionel Messi want to leave Barcelona?
Barcelona had a terrible campaign by their own high standards in 2019/20. The failure to win a trophy was compounded by their embarrassing Champions League exit as they lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals – the worst defeat of Messi's career.
After their humiliating loss to the eventual competition winners, Messi sent Nou Camp chiefs a burofax announcing his intention to terminate his contract due to his dissatisfaction with the club's direction.
A clause in the deal allowed him to unilaterally sever the agreement as long as he informed the club before the end of the season.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic resulting in the 2019/20 campaign ending later than normal, there was disagreement between the parties over the specific date before La Liga intervened and said his contract was still valid.
Messi backed down and announced his intention to see out the remaining year of his contract.
A change of first-team management has not arrested the team's decline so a parting of the ways appears likely at the end of this season.
Where could Lionel Messi go on a free transfer?
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain appear to be the leading contenders for his signature.
A move to the Premier League giants offers Messi the chance to reunite with former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola.
He is eager to play in MLS and City could provide a pathway by joining sister club New York City FC further down the line.
Speaking about his American dream in December 2020, Messi said: "I would like to play in the United States and experience life and the league there, but ultimately come back to Barcelona in some capacity."
PSG have publicly expressed their interest and the chance to work with countryman Mauricio Pochettino might prove tempting.
The French club certainly don't lack the financial power and a switch to Parc des Princes would offer Messi the chance to form a dream attack with former teammate Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
What is Lionel Messi's Barcelona record?
Messi's achievements at Barcelona are proof of his genius and prodigious talent.
He is their all-time record goalscorer with 648 goals including 455 in La Liga and 118 in the Champions League. Barring a serious injury, he will soon overtake Xavi to make the most appearances for the club in all competitions.
Messi has helped Barcelona to 23 major trophies including 10 La Ligas, four Champions Leagues, six Copa del Reys and three Club World Cups.
He's also bagged six Ballon d'Ors amid his battle with Cristiano Ronaldo for individual supremacy.
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