‘Anything is possible’ when it comes to where Lionel Messi will play next season, says Spanish football expert Guillem Balague.
Balague says the Argentina captain has had offers from Saudi Arabia and Major League Soccer in the United States, while there is interest in bringing him back to Barcelona, although no official offer has yet been made.
Messi had reached an ‘agreement in principle’ to renew his contract at Paris St-Germain for another year, with his priority to continue in elite European football until the 2024 Copa America.
After two seasons in Paris, the club, owned by Qatar Sports Investment, would like to convince him to accept this additional year under the same conditions as at present.
According to Balague, the 35-year-old still needs to be convinced that the Ligue 1 side can remain competitive at the top of European football, as director of football Luis Campos has been asked to reduce the salary list to comply with fair-trade rules. financial play. regulations.
“Messi said he will stay put for this extra year as long as – because it has to be accepted by both parties – there is a competitive sports team put together,” Balague said.
“The message Messi received was that PSG would keep the same financial terms, which is not a problem, but that he had to reduce the salary list, which makes the team less competitive.
“It’s also not clear whether the manager (Christophe Galtier) will be replaced and who will come in. In Qatar there is talk that the squad composition will vary from four to five players, which makes next season a bit difficult . uncertainty.”
A number of clubs around the world are stepping up their own attempts to convince the 2022 World Cup winner to sign for them.
“The pressure from the owners of the Qatar club is huge. They don’t understand why there is a delay and would be ready to put even more money on the table. But I insist, it’s not a problem,” Balague said.
PSG lead Ligue 1 by six points, but their 11th consecutive attempt to win the Champions League ended in a 3-0 aggregate defeat in the Round of 16 to Bayern Munich last month.
Could Messi really return to Barca?
Messi, who left Barcelona for financial reasons in 2021, was greeted with whistles from a small section of PSG supporters before falling to a seventh defeat of 2023 at home to Lyon on Sunday.
This followed news last week that Barcelona were in contact with Messi over his return to the club, and after stories began to appear in the French media about his future which put the Argentine under a negative day.
Jorge Messi, Lionel’s father and agent, had a 25-minute meeting with Barca president Joan Laporta at a hotel in Barcelona. It was the first time they had met since the day Laporta confirmed in Messi’s office that the player was not going to continue at the club.
“The main topic of conversation at the hotel was not Leo’s future but how can Barcelona honor him,” Balague said.
“Leo and Laporta haven’t spoken but obviously Barcelona keep pushing the idea that yes, they’re going to go. The main driver is manager Xavi who speaks very regularly to Messi and very clearly paints a picture of a team that needs his quality.
“Xavi tells Messi that he will be used as one of the two midfielders in front of whoever is holding, very similar to what he does with Argentina. Xavi has thought of different ways to make it work and each time as Leo hears about it, his eyes light up.
“But then he hears stuff from the club like ‘we’re definitely talking to them and it’s going to happen’ from the directors who suggest he’s almost a spectator and I imagine his reaction is quite negative because there hasn’t been offer to everything. These are just talks coming from Barcelona.”
Messi reached a new deal with Barcelona on reduced wages two years ago but the club unexpectedly changed their minds at the last minute. Now, with a similar financial situation, it is believed that having Messi in the team will bring in the money to continue bringing in big players.
This move by Laporta in 2021 ended Messi’s historic stint at the club which yielded four Champions League and 10 La Liga titles – plus six Ballons d’Or.
The club has continued to struggle with its finances ever since.
“How is it possible that Barcelona, who are in a similar situation as they were when Messi left, think they can afford Messi?” said Balague. “And why don’t they start negotiations?
“No one has approached Jorge or Leo to tell them how to put it all together with a financial package. Barcelona still have to reduce their salary list by €200m.
“My hunch is that if they did, they would be at a disadvantage in luring Messi with the possibility of returning. Every week that goes by without an offer, it’s a million less than they’re likely to offer.
“If the only offer Messi has to stay in the top game is PSG, and he’s not fully convinced because of his sporting situation, Barcelona can come in a month and say ‘we can’t. allow us to pay what you deserve but we can actually give you that, which won’t be much”.
A transfer of 400 million euros to Saudi Arabia?
Messi received an offer this week to sign for Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League, where rival Cristiano Ronaldo already plays, for more than 400 million euros for one season, according to Balague.
He also had an approach from Inter Miami in Major League Soccer, the club his former Barcelona team-mate and friend Sergio Busquets is expected to sign for next season. Busquets is not yet committed to this decision as he hopes to reunite with Messi.
“On MLS, they can never afford what Al-Hilal and PSG can offer. The hope for Inter is that Messi feels it’s time to ditch the top flight and be in a calmer place to be ready for the Copa America,” Balague said.
“Anyone who says Messi has decided one way or another would be lying. He will make a decision at some point of course, but the priority is to stay in the elite game until 2024 and the Copa America, which puts PSG always in the foreground. .
“Barcelona didn’t make any offers, Inter’s offer is very clear and has been for some time and then the other offer for over 400m wouldn’t keep Messi in the top flight but that’s a crazy financial package and the possibility of playing against Ronaldo again. So that’s where we are.”