Where to Messi? Only few clubs can meet his wage demands

With clubs all over the world wanting Lionel Messi in its line up, only a few able to make a financial deal work.

The 33-year-old six-time Balloon d’Or and Argentina star want out of the rebuilding project at Barca after a rare trophy-less season. He clearly lost respect for the club’s directors who look ready for a legal right to enforce a transfer fee key to helping reinforce an aging team.

Leo Messi is trying to force a move after 20 years with Barcelona, which wants to hold him to a contract that runs through June 2021.

The contract money is reported to be a whopping 100 million euros ($118 million) annual salary package and release clause demanding a 700 million euros ($827 million) transfer fee. Messi believes he should be allowed to leave for nothing.

A clause in his contract set a June 10 deadline for him to request his free transfer – intended to be after the season ends.

European soccer’s unforeseen shutdown during the COVID pandemic pushed the season into August, and Messi believes he can still invoke the clause now.

Even if Messi leaves for free or Barcelona compromises on the transfer fee, the overall cost will test his new club’s compliance with UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) rules.

Monitoring rules will be put on hold by UEFA, while soccer’s economy is rocked by teams playing in front for few or no fans.

But would influential rivals look the other way if a lucky club skipped the rules to get a one-time-only chance of signing arguably soccer’s greatest player?

Here’s where Messi might land after Barcelona:

SPAIN

Barcelona still hopes to keep Messi at least for another season.

“We want to rebuild for the future together with the best player in history,” said Ramon Planes, the club’s technical director. “We are not contemplating any departure on a contractual level because we want him to stay.”

Barcelona is trying to avoid an abrupt and bitter end to Messi’s career that brought four European titles and 10 La Liga trophies.

“We can’t make this a dispute between Lionel Messi and Barcelona because neither deserves it,” Planes said.

ENGLAND

Given its Abu Dhabi-backed wealth and presence of three high-ranking former Barcelona officials Messi knows well, many see Manchester City as the most obvious destination.

Guardiola is often asked if he could see Messi joining City and always downplays the possibility. “My wish is Messi is going to stay in Barcelona,” he said last month.

Recently, City hasn’t been the sort of club focusing mostly on younger and up-and-coming talent. It would surely make an exception for Messi.

Manchester United also has the financial power to land Messi, and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward likes a signature signing.

ITALY

Rumors of Messi moving to Inter Milan have run for months because the player and his father have reportedly bought apartments in the city. If true, the reasons could be for tax planning rather than his soccer future.

It would also revive Messi’s storied rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined Juve in 2018 after nine years at Real Madrid.

FRANCE

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel was crystal clear about wanting Messi in his team.

“He’s very welcome. What coach says no to Messi?” said Tuchel, whose side lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich on Sunday.

Now that could change and signing Messi would be a coup for PSG and reunite him with former Barca teammate and friend Neymar. Alongside Kylian Mbappé they would form the most feared strike force.

GERMANY

Bayern prefers low-risk transfer dealings. Loans for Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona and midfielder James Rodriguez from Real Madrid were not made permanent, and it targets younger players,

Paying a huge sum for a 33-year-old, however great, would go against the European champion’s entire philosophy.