Lionel Messi is officially a free agent. Financial problems have blown up an agreed-upon contract to return to Barcelona. On Thursday, the club announced Messi "will not continue" his relationship with Barcelona and thanked him for his service. The financial structure of the deal violated La Liga's rules and rather than re-work things, the 34-year-old is now free to sign anywhere.
It's fair to say, after a 21-year run at Barcelona, that Messi is the greatest free agent to ever come on the market in any sport. Competition will be high for his services. He's still the best player in the world and arguably the best ever.
Only a handful of teams could pay him what he's looking for -- his previous salary was reportedly $610,000 a week but would have dropped to $305,000 in his new deal. Below we take a look at Messi's potential destinations in free agency.
Lionel Messi Transfer Destinations
This is the move that makes the most sense. PSG finished second in Ligue 1 in 2021 after three straight titles and you can bet the club will do what it takes to get back to the top. PSG has almost no financial restrictions thanks deep-pocketed Qatari ownership. Reuniting Messi with Neymar would go a long way towards doing that. Throw in Kylian Mbappe and you've got arguably the greatest attacking trio ever assembled.
From 2013 through 2017, Messi and Neymar were teammates at Barcelona. They won two La Liga titles and brought home a Champions League trophy in 2015. It was a successful partnership and there's no reason it couldn't work again. With Messi on the roster, PSG would easily be the most talented team in the world and a favorite to win every domestic competition and the Champions League.
Like PSG, Manchester City has few financial concerns with offering Messi a huge deal, the question would be fit at this time. City manager Pep Guardiola was Messi's boss at Barcelona during a wildly-successful run from 2008 through 2012. During that stretch, Barcelona won La Liga three times, took home five more domestic trophies and won the Champions League twice.
The issue for this pairing is whether Messi fits City's plans right now or not. The Jack Grealish transfer cost £100 million and City is still pursuing Harry Kane on a transfer that could cost upwards of £130 million. A Messi contract would blow both of those deals away. While the club has nearly unlimited funds, there is a point where things don't make sense anymore.
Chelsea had its heart set on adding Erling Haaland this summer but it appears the 21-year-old will remain with Borussia Dortmund. The club is also pursuing a reunion Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku, which could cost as much as £130 million. Manager Thomas Tuchel has been desperate to find more offensive punch after Timo Werner's tough debut campaign last season.
Messi makes a ton of sense, and owner Roman Abramovich is not shy of making big moves. Chelsea is loaded in the midfield, led by N'Golo Kante and Jorginho and supported by a cast of characters like Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic and more. But the squad was inconsistent in the final third, as that talented group finished eighth in goals scored. Messi would completely change that dynamic.
The post-Alex Ferguson years have not been kind to Manchester United, but the club that used to be Europe's most-feared could turn things around with this move. United already added Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane this summer and tacking Messi on top of them would be quite the coup.
The only issue here is that United is currently attempting to clear the squad of dead weight. Guys like Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Phil Jones and Diogo Dalot are up for sale and it's hard to see the club adding anyone before those guys are gone. United is also listening to offers for Paul Pogba.
United has the financial clout and worldwide brand to fit with Messi, but it's not as clean a pairing as some of the other options on here. Still, there's a chance all that gets worked out and he joins England's most glamorous club.
This is an extremely slim possibility but it exists. As part of his failed deal with Barcelona, Messi would have gone to Inter Miami FC for two seasons beginning in 2023. He's long expressed a desire to play in MLS some day and last summer there were rumors of an eventual move to New York City FC.
Given the complicated situation with Barcelona, Messi could just decide to move to the United States now. As I said, there's a slim chance this happens, but it does exist.