Lionel Messi's Paris Saint-Germain future is almost certain to end this summer when his current deal at Parc des Princes expires at the end of June. The Argentina international won the FIFA 2022 World Cup with his country, but relations have soured with the French giants' Qatari owners after an unauthorized commercial trip to Saudi Arabia with his family after the recent 3-1 loss at home to FC Lorient. PSG suspended the 35-year-old for two weeks with a heavy pay hit and no access to club facilities while the capital club's ultras also voiced their desire to see him leave. Messi later apologized publicly and returned to training without most of his senior PSG teammates the following Monday after PSG's stance softened because of his swift and genuine gesture. The next day, Messi joined in with all of his teammates. Les Parisiens' post-Qatar form has generally been dreadful with UEFA Champions League and Coupe de France exits leaving only an historic 11th Ligue 1 title to fight for. With Messi's time with PSG coming to an acrimonious end, Inter Miami, Barcelona and Saudi Arabia are being touted as the most likely potential destinations. So, where are we at with knowing where Messi might be playing his soccer beyond the end of this current season?
Let's look at what we know.
When is Messi's contract up?
The former Barcelona man's current deal is up at the end of this campaign, so he is into the final few months of his current contract which means that he is free to discuss potential moves with other clubs. It had been thought that PSG had an option to extend Messi's deal by an additional year but the Ligue 1 leaders actually needed to discuss fresh contractual details. You might recall that Messi receives part of his salary in cryptocurrency -- a soccer first at the time -- and terms such as those needed to be revised along with his basic pay and bonuses. The crypto aspect took on greater importance when factoring in that PSG reportedly need to slash their wage budget by 30% and could therefore consider letting one of Messi, or Neymar go. For PSG to even keep Messi on his same current rate, they would have presumably had to factor out the devalued crypto part of his salary which would have actually added to the overall total with Milan Skriniar also coming in. Per L'Equipe in an article hinting at a summer exit from a while back, PSG wanted Messi to cut his current terms by at least a quarter which the player's entourage were not keen on while there was no clarity on what the project will look like next season and who will be overseeing it. RMC Sport stressed that it was up to the French giants' Qatari owners to resolve the situation while Agence France Presse reported that Messi was more likely to leave Paris than stay and that the club's fans had played a significant part in that. The definitive moment came after the 3-1 Lorient loss, though, with PSG taking firm action against Messi for his Saudi visit which killed all hope of a positive resolution to his Paris future. PSG accepted his apology and allowed him to train again, but that is unlikely to change his future beyond the end of his current deal.
Why is it expiring?
Messi's form has been much better this term than in his first season as a player with the French capital outfit. The South American has been more productive and currently has 20 goals and 19 assists to his name with Les Parisiens across all competitions. PSG went all-out to extend Mbappe's contract last year and have been limited financially since then so that is a significant economic consideration when debating Messi's future. However, the goat has shown in glimpses that he has still got it. Given that a meeting between Messi's entourage took place and was led by his father, there was clearly interest to keep him at Parc des Princes beyond this summer. CBS insider Fabrizio Romano affirmed on House of Champions that PSG's was the only firm European offer Messi had in his hands and Romano repeatedly emphasised that Messi and his entourage wanted to know more about the club's plans for next season given that RMC Sport in France said PSG are already looking for Galtier's replacement.
Is Messi happy in Paris?
Despite a difficult adaptation period to life after Barca and Catalonia, until very recently, Messi was happier than in his early days in France. Not only was his family settled, but the man from Rosario was playing some of the best soccer of this later period of his career. Given how year two was going on the field, it was no surprise that both PSG and Messi were initially open to a third campaign together. Champions League and Coupe de France failure raised major questions over the French giants' project and who should be overseeing it, though. According to L'Equipe, Galtier saved himself until summer with OGC Nice and RC Lens wins with an eventual change almost certain. A return to Barcelona or Argentina would appeal while a new adventure entirely should not be ruled out. That said, childhood club Newell's were lined up to be his final club -- if he ever goes home as a player -- until recent scenes greeting him as he tried to eat in Buenos Aires and unfortunate events in his native Rosario could make Argentina impractical for family and safety reasons.
Might he go?
Of course, that was a possibility and it is now an overwhelming probability. At the end of the day, Messi has been free to speak with other clubs who could put in an offer which the French giants were powerless to prevent since January. However, 36 in a few months, the Argentine arguably only has one or two more moves left and one of those potentially being a return to childhood club Newell's Old Boys suggests that his next one could take him out of Europe. Is Messi ready to leave the UEFA Champions League just yet when he is still building a strong case for an eighth Ballon d'Or? He does not feel that this is the case for now. Winning a FIFA Best award probably added to the feeling that he still has a lot left to give at the top level which some mooted destinations are not. Gerardo Romero has previously claimed that Messi does not want to stay with PSG and is open to a Barca return which would require conditions to be met in order for it to happen. Given the change in tone around PSG of late, it is no surprise that speculation stepped up a notch -- even before this latest drama. PSG now want rid of Messi and longtime teammate Neymar with Kylian Mbappe the undisputed top dog.
Former club Barca and Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami have been strongly linked with moves but both present major hurdles. The Catalan giants remain in financial turmoil which was the reason why Messi was forced to leave Camp Nou in the first place. Messi was back in Barcelona recently, but his father Jorge doubts a return despite Xavi keeping the door "open" for Messi. "I would love for Leo Messi to return," said Xavi. "It is a topic we are working on, but it does not just depend on me. It depends on Lionel's happiness and whether he wants to return. It is not the right time to speak about that, but I would be the first one to be very happy." Barca vice president Rafa Yuste also confirmed: "We have been in contact with Leo's camp. He knows how much we appreciate him and I would love for him to come back. For sure, Messi loves Barca and the city, so we hope to find the right conditions to continue his history here." Current Barca star Robert Lewandowski did nothing to dampen hopes in Catalonia when the Poland international spoke of his hope to team up: "Messi belongs to Barca. If he comes back, it will be something incredible. We know that his place is here -- in Barcelona. I do not know what might happen, but I do hope that we can play together next season." However, the reality is that Barca face major hurdles in order to make this happen -- notably selling players to create space.
David Beckham's MLS franchise are very much in transition and would probably need a few more high-profile names in order to make the sporting aspect of any potential as attractive as the lure of the Miami lifestyle. One of those could be Sergio Busquets who has been heavily linked with the move which was not denied by head coach Phil Neville: "I am not going to deny (it and say) there is no truth in the speculation that we are interested in Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets. Since I joined Miami, I think we have been linked with Dani Alves, Robert Lewandowski, Willian, Cesc Fabregas, Luis Suarez. All of them you can rattle off." It has also been noted by the likes of the Miami Herald that Miami's No. 10 and No. 5 shirts are currently available -- Messi and Busquets' habitual jersey preferences. Coincidentally, Inter Miami single-game tickets for July, August, and September games are "in the works" according to the franchise website and Ticketmaster who tell visitors to "check back!" Commissioner Don Garber has even talked up MLS' ability to get 'flexible' in order to bring Messi to the U.S. Despite all of that, the U.S. is not Europe -- nor is the Middle East...
Which is emerging as another potential option for Messi's future is a Saudi Arabian stint. Not only is the Argentine already a tourism ambassador for the country -- as his recent stunt with PSG illustrated -- the Roshn Saudi League now houses old rival Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr. According to Romano, powerhouse Al-Hilal tabled an offer in excess of $438 million per year in salary despite the player's desire to continue in the UEFA Champions League. Barca could yet rival that with sentimentality as they wait on financial fair play (FFP) clarity before making an offer. However, the lucrative Middle Eastern payday option is now well and truly on the table and can only become increasingly attractive as Messi's PSG deal ticks down through this final month or so. Per El Chiringuito, Messi will play in Saudi Arabia next along with Sergio Busquets and almost certainly Jordi Alba. Jorge Messi had to publicly shoot down AFP reports that a deal is close to being done to take Messi to Saudi Arabia once his PSG deal ends.
What is likeliest?
Reading between the lines, another year or so in Europe still appears to be the most preferable solution for Messi's in terms of his future. However, the speculation keeps going up a few notches and is now close to fever pitch regarding Al-Hilal as well as Miami and MLS. If it is literally a question of where he plays his soccer next season, then it makes little to no sense to potentially only move somewhere else for a single campaign when his PSG move needed his second term to hit form. Barca, or an Inter Miami, or Al-Hilal, could steal in, but the Catalan giants have the edge as a European side. An extension of one to two years with PSG would have been music to Ligue 1's ears given his importance in potentially helping to secure a new and improved international and domestic TV deal, but now that responsibility will lie with Mbappe.