Barcelona star Lionel Messi has claimed that a number of top European sides have closed the gap on his team and Real Madrid, with the two Spanish giants no longer the only major attractions for the world's top players.
In an interview with Catalunya Radio, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner believes that the immense financial power of clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and the two Manchester sides is a sign of changing times.
Only three active players have scored 50+ Champions League goals:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 5, 2018
• Cristiano Ronaldo (120)
• Lionel Messi (100)
• Karim Benzema (56)
Now all rivals. pic.twitter.com/L7zcvHS4mi
Barcelona and Argentina's number 10 said:
"Wherever the most money is, that's where they end up going. Things have changed and now the owners of clubs are multi-millionaires.
"Before, everyone wanted to play for Barca or Madrid, who were the best, but now everything's tighter and there's not much of a difference between the teams in Manchester, PSG, Madrid, us, Bayern [Munich], the Italians."
Messi has never looked likely to leave his boyhood club at any stage, as even all of the aforementioned club's respective financial muscle wouldn't be enough to afford the 31-year-old.
When quizzed on his future plans, the Blaugrana's record goalscorer said:
Lionel Messi not in the running for the FIFA Best player award. LOL.— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) September 3, 2018
You can't possibly take these FIFA awards seriously anymore.
"The club can be calm [when I am gone] if they keep bringing players through the academy and making good signings."
In other news, Messi has amazingly been left out of the three man shortlist for the FIFA Best Men's Player of the Year award, in what appears to be a player becoming a victim of his own success.