Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has been tipped to sensationally leave the club at the end of next season when his contract expires, as problems at Camp Nou continue to worsen.
Recruitment in the years since Barça last won the Champions League has been expensive and poor, the wage bill is unsustainably enormous, the squad is ageing, and short-term financial decisions – such as the sale of Arthur to Juventus to balance the books – are negatively impacting the long-term.
Messi himself had a public run-in with Camp Nou official and former teammates Eric Abidal earlier this season, while the bizarre Barçagate scandal saw the club accused of using a third party company to criticise its own players on social media to improve the image of the board – something that under fire president Josep Maria Bartomeu has always denied.
Barça also opted to sack coach Ernesto Valverde earlier this season when top of La Liga and now face missing out on the title. Meanwhile, an image from this week’s draw with Atletico Madrid also tellingly pointed to a lack of unity as players stood dispersed and distant when their opponents were conversely huddled close together.
Messi has often been linked with a Barça exit in the past and it has never usually been worth taking all that seriously. But this time the circumstances are such that it’s possible to believe he could.
The fresh story stems from Spanish radio show El Larguero on Cadena SER, suggesting that, at this moment in time, Messi’s intention is to leave Camp Nou in 2021.
It would send shockwaves through football and, even now at 33, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner could still be an incredible asset for many of the world’s top clubs.
He saw great rival Cristiano Ronaldo leave Real Madrid for Juventus at the age of 33 in 2018 and start a new chapter that many would have considered unlikely.
Losing Messi next year would knock Barça sick. Not only would they lose the talisman that increasingly carries the team, they would get no transfer fee.