The world soccer community burst into a frenzy Tuesday, with Argentine outlet TyC Sports reporting that six-time Ballon D’Or winner Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona that he’ll depart the club. The decision was later confirmed by the club to the Associated Press, and MLS is highlighted as a possible destination in the original piece.
Messi is currently under contract with the La Liga powerhouse through 2021, though reportedly has an exit clause to leave between seasons. Some of Barca’s biggest stars are reportedly weighing exits after being demolished 8-2 against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals earlier this month.
Barca recently appointed Dutch manager Ronald Koeman, who’s trying to steady the ship after they failed to win any international or domestic trophy last season. It’s a rebuild project in many ways that Messi, 33, might not want to partake in.
Regarded as one of the world’s best-ever players, Messi has only ever played professionally for Barcelona. He made his debut in 2004 after joining their youth ranks from Argentine club Newell's Old Boys, and has since scored 634 goals in 731 games for the Spanish side. On the international stage, Messi has 70 goals in 138 appearances.
Still arguably the world’s best player, Messi will encounter suitors of all kinds. Other European powers, including Manchester City and Inter Milan, would surely have the financial resources to land him and there’s always the angle of returning home to Argentina.
But one can’t help but wonder if an MLS club would splash the cash to secure Messi’s signature. He’d be the biggest signing in league history, topping when David Beckham joined the LA Galaxy in 2007 and other superstars like Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic came stateside in 2018.
As for a possible MLS destination? Messi’s been linked to the Beckham-led Inter Miami project in years past, saying “who knows, in a few years maybe you will give me a call.” That was back in 2018, and Miami now have a third Designated Player spot open after getting World Cup-winning midfielder Blaise Matuidi on a Targeted Allocation Money deal.
The Messi-to-Miami link could make sense financially, as well as from a lifestyle and geographical perspective. One thing's for sure, Messi will only entertain the most impressive pitches, given all he’s accomplished during his illustrious career.
Whatever Messi decides, the transfer ins and outs will be tracked worldwide. After all, it’s freakin' Messi.