Where Will Lionel Messi End Up?

It’s been coming for a while now, but it looks like Lionel Messi will finally be leaving FC Barcelona.

The reasons for this are plentiful. Barcelona have just finished a trophy-less season in which they fired two managers. They hired a new manager, Ronald Koeman, who has struggled at club level, and who has already essentially been told by Barcelona’s presidential candidates that he has no future with the team. Koeman has told Messi that, “his privileges are over”. Messi’s longtime teammate Luis Suarez is expected to be sold whilst Barcelona are tipped for a massive rebuild.

So who should be considered as candidates to sign Messi, and which rumors should not be taken seriously?

Possible: Manchester City

This move could make sense for many reasons, but there’s also multiple flaws. Financially, yes. Manchester City can afford Messi’s wages thanks to wealthy owner Sheikh Mansour. Messi also has connections with many of the players and staff at City. When Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola coached Barcelona, the duo won three La Liga titles, two Champions League trophies, and two FIFA World Cup Club trophies. Manchester City’s star striker, Sergio Agüero, is teammates on the Argentinian national team with Messi and the two are good friends.

However, there are some potential issues with this move. For a starter, the Citizens will definitely be forced to sell at least one winger. Leroy Sane has been moved on, but with Messi, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres, and Riyad Mahrez on the wing, playing time would not be split adequately to keep all the players satisfied.

More importantly, it would be a strange choice for Messi to leave Barcelona due to conflict and questions about the future, only to join another team with questions about the future. Manchester City were trophy-less this season as well. They lost in the FA Cup semifinals to Arsenal, were eliminated in the Champions League quarter-finals following a 3-1 loss to Lyon, and finished second in the Premier League…18 points behind Liverpool. With Guardiola’s future in the air following yet another Champions League exit, this move would be strange, yet it makes more sense than some others.

Not Possible: Arsenal

Do I really have to explain this one? Arsenal have just finished eighth in the Premier League and are only in the Europa League because they beat struggling Manchester City and wounded Chelsea in the FA Cup. Arsenal have improved their defense, but it’s still far more of a concern than a new winger. Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe, Willian, Reiss Nelson, and occasionally Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have played or will play as a winger for the Gunners. Arsenal would be better off signing an experienced center back, like Kalidou Koulibaly or even Gerard Pique.

Furthermore, Arsenal have just had to fire 55 employees due to the financial impact of coronavirus, so there is no way they can financially afford Messi.

Possible: AC Milan

AC Milan should be considered dark horses to sign Messi. Messi has received strong interest from AC Milan’s rivals, Inter, but AC Milan are clearly trying to make a grand return to Europe’s biggest stages. French billionaire and Louis Vuitton owner Bernard Arnault has been trying to take over the club for some time now, and if he were to, this would be the perfect signing to immediately get AC Milan back in Serie A contention, as Milan’s defense is stronger than many of their rivals.

The only issue might be AC Milan’s star striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Zlatan claims to have had a good relationship with Messi while at Barcelona over ten years ago, but has stated in the past that his lack of success at Barcelona was partly due to Lionel Messi. Messi and Zlatan both wanted to play in the center when Zlatan originally signed for Barcelona in 2009, but Guardiola decided to play Messi there instead of Zlatan. Shortly thereafter, Zlatan was sold to AC Milan and labeled as a flop by the media. However, Zlatan has still spoken fondly of Messi and, given that Zlatan turns 39 in October and is expected to sign a short-term extension with AC Milan, he won’t be staying at San Siro for very long.

This means that if Messi were to sign for AC Milan, he could stay on the wing for one or two seasons to form a partnership with Zlatan. When Zlatan leaves, Messi can do what Cristiano Ronaldo did and become more of a striker in the later stages of his career.

Not Possible: Bayern Munich

He’s very welcome. What coach says no to Messi?

PSG Coach Thomas Tuchel Following PSG’s Champions League Loss To Bayern

Well, not to overhype Bayern, but after winning the Champions League to successfully complete a treble winning season, Hans-Dieter Flick would and should say no to Messi.

Bayern are arguably the reason Messi is pushing for a transfer. Had Bayern beat Barcelona in a close, competitive Champions League match, Messi would likely wait out his contract, and would be a free agent next year. However, Bayern absolutely obliterated Barcelona, 8-2, and that was the last straw, leading to Messi being linked just about everywhere.

But Messi would not get into the starting eleven nearly enough in a team that consists of Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman and potentially Ivan Perisic on a permanent deal. Bayern has built their team on smart purchases and homegrown talent, and Lionel Messi would be an expensive, unnecessary, and unwanted splurge that would not be in the best interest of Messi or Bayern.

It appears that Lionel Messi will be dominating the transfer window and rumors, so obviously these predictions will become more likely and less likely over time. I didn’t mention all of his options, but if you would like a part two, please let me know. Where do you think Messi will end up?

Image courtesy of Wael Mogherbi / CC BY-SA.

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