Even casual soccer fans are probably familiar with Lionel Messi because he is one of those athletes who transcends his sport and becomes a household name beyond the reach of the game’s hardcore fans. That is why it’s news when there’s any speculation about him potentially leaving Barcelona, the only club that Messi has played for in his professional career.
So why are people asking if he is ready to leave Barcelona, and is he considering that option?
Lionel Messi’s Barcelona career
Messi is still going strong at 32 years old. He has won a club-record 34 trophies during his time with Barcelona, which includes 10 La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles, and six Copa del Rey trophies.
Messi also holds a number of other records, some of which include most goals in La Liga, most goals in a season in La Liga and the European league, most La Liga assists, and most UEFA Champions League hat tricks. He has also scored almost 700 goals to date in his senior career.
In international play, Messi led his native Argentina to the championship at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, where he earned the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. Starting in 2009, Messi won three straight FIFA Ballons d’Or, and he has won five FIFA Player of the Year awards to date, with potentially more to come if he keeps playing at the level that he is known for.
Messi’s contract situation
Messi has a unique contract situation, which allows him to walk away from Barcelona at the end of each season. That ties into the rumors that he may be getting ready to leave the team at the end of the current 2019-20 season.
These are popping up because Messi has revealed that he has not yet opened up negotiations for a new deal with the club that he has played for since 2004. Team president Josep Maria Bartomeu has confirmed that Messi has the option of leaving on a free transfer at the end of the current campaign.
What are his options?
If Messi exercises his option to leave Barcelona, he won’t be short of potential landing spots. There are rumors that he could return to Argentina for the chance to play in his home country before he retires.
Another intriguing option is for Messi to come to the United States. He has been linked with the Inter Miami MLS franchise that another soccer icon, David Beckham, is starting. Beckham has reportedly contacted Messi about leading that club, which is going to begin play in March 2020.
Is Messi leaning toward a Barcelona exit?
SPORT magazine interviewed Messi and asked him about his intention of exercising the exit clause in his contract. He wouldn’t confirm having such a clause in his deal, citing confidentiality agreements. But, Messi said that he “want[s] to be at Barcelona as long as possible.”
He reiterated something he has said throughout his career, which is that Barcelona is his “home,” though he wants to continue to be there because he is physically able to play rather than being forced to stay in Barcelona due to a long-term contract.
He says money doesn’t mean anything to him, and that other things motivate him, and “the most important thing is having a winning team.” Messi also says he wants to remain “an important member of the squad,” which is something he likely doesn’t have to worry about regardless of what team he’s playing for, given his legacy.
Messi continued by saying he doesn’t have “any intention of going anywhere,” but he “want[s] to keep competing and winning.” Based on that, if Barcelona keeps putting a competitive team on the pitch, Messi seems like he would want to continue playing there.