Lionel Messi's retirement hint, transfer advice and final wish amid PSG nightmare

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What’s next for Lionel Messi? It’s a question everyone will be asking this summer after a disappointing first season at Paris Saint-Germain, scoring just two Ligue 1 goals. For the first time in a long time, the Argentine no longer seems among the world’s best players.

Messi was expected to dominate French football, with some even tipping him to end PSG’s wait for Champions League glory. Neither of those prophecies have come true, however, and his time in Paris could be dwindling towards a premature end.

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The 34-year-old’s Argentina future also hangs in the balance. “I really don’t know,” said Messi when asked when he’s planning on retiring from international future. This year’s World Cup is his last realistic chance of winning the only trophy that alludes him, but he admitted a period of change could be coming after December’s tournament. “I can only think about what’s coming next, I only think about facing Ecuador. After the World Cup, I will have to rethink many things.”

With the tournament in Qatar still a while away, it’s too early to speculate about Messi’s international legacy. Though his description that the 3-0 win over Venezuela – potentially his last home match in front of the Argentina fans – was “farewell in a very good way” could provide some hint to where his head is at – at least on the international stage.

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It seems unlikely he would call time on his club career so soon, though seemingly already at a difficult crossroads in Paris, his final swansong may be something he is considering that bit more often…

The PSG problem

It’s safe to say things haven’t gone according to plan for Messi in his new, somewhat forced venture in France, and their have already been murmurings he would happily cut short his time in Paris and move on.

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The biggest stumbling block is his existing deal, which doesn’t expire for another 15 months. But, considering he’s reportedly earning an eye-watering £2.8m per month with little return, PSG may be open to a swift break-up sooner rather than later if the opportunity presents.

The fans would certainly be happy to see Messi leave. He’s been booed on more than one occasion, needing former team-mate Cesc Fabregas to defend him in a recent interview. “You’re talking about a player [Messi] who has just arrived,” said the Spaniard.

“PSG have never had a player like this in their lives. It’s better to be grateful, to support him and not crush him. This year or next, these guys will bring you great moments.”

Lionel Messi's retirement hint, transfer advice and final wish amid PSG nightmare
© John Berry/Getty Images Lionel Messi has failed to deliver at PSG alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe

Thierry Henry, another former team-mate, added: “Last week, PSG fans booed Messi. How can you boo the greatest of all-time? The guy that has assisted the most goals in Ligue? Today [a 3-0 defeat to Monaco], without Messi the team created nothing.”

Messi’s goal involvement is a positive sign. He’s assisted 10 goals in Ligue 1 this term, the joint-highest alongside Kylian Mbappe and Rennes midfielder Benjamin Bourigeaud. Yet Messi, who scored 38 goals last season for Barcelona, wasn’t signed for assists.

When Messi left the Nou Camp, the French capital seemed like the best option. Yet there is no guarantee he can still make the move a success – particularly if PSG lose star man Kylian Mbappe this summer.

Barcelona return?

For romantics, Messi’s next step is obvious: Barcelona. The 34-year-old was forced to leave the club last summer after they racked up more than £1billion worth of debt and, based on his emotional exit speech and subsequent form, it’s clear he’d love a return.

“I feel very sad now as I have to leave a club that I love,” said a teary Messi on leaving Barcelona. “I did not expect this. I always told the truth. Last year I wanted to leave, this year I did not want to leave… I did everything to stay.”

Many at Barcelona seem open to a comeback. “Messi has earned having the doors open to Barca,” recently said manager Xavi. “As long as I’m the coach here, if he wants to come every day to watch training or talk to the coach, what he’s given us is priceless.

“He’s the best player in history. He deserves a big tribute from the club. But today he has a contract with PSG, I think he signed for two years.”

Let’s just remember what Messi achieved at Barcelona. He is the club’s all-time leading scorer with 672 goals and won 34 trophies – including 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues. Messi helped them become the dominant force in Spain for a generation.

Lionel Messi's retirement hint, transfer advice and final wish amid PSG nightmare
© AFP via Getty Images Lionel Messi achieved plenty of success playing alongside Xavi at Barcelona

The veteran’s old team-mates also want to him back. “I’ve had a great time with Leo on the pitch and off it he’s a magnificent person so I hope he can come back,” said Pedri at the weekend. “I had fun playing with him and it is a joy to have him as a teammate.”

However, Barcelona seem to be heading in a new direction under Xavi, and it remains unclear whether president Joan Laporta would be prepared to take Messi on again whilst operating under their strict budget. Messi would likely be open to playing on a drastically reduced salary, but if the chance of a switch back to the Nou Camp isn’t on, would he consider another challenge in Europe.

Judging by the transfer advice he gave to Dani Alves in the summer, it seems Messi is aware there is only one club that can make him happy. Speaking earlier this month, Alves insisted: “For me, no, he’s [Messi] not enjoying it. Leo makes this game special and he does it when he feels right. When that’s the case, others benefit from it too. In my opinion, he’s rattled over there.

“Leo was living in the best place in the world to do what he loves. Leo always said to me, ‘Where would you rather be than [at Barcelona]?’ I can verify, there is no better place than here. When we knew he was leaving, I sent him the same message he sent me. I hope he comes back. I hope he comes with me here to take advantage of all this again. Everyone who leaves here regrets it. Everyone… they won’t be better off anywhere.”

Barcelona seems the logical choice for Messi. A new generation has emerged at the Nou Camp, and it’s hard to imagine the club ever rejecting their greatest player. But the decision remains out of his hands.

American dream?

Lionel Messi's retirement hint, transfer advice and final wish amid PSG nightmare
© USA TODAY Sports Will Phil Neville be coaching Lionel Messi in the near future?

If not Barcelona, where? Many would love to see Messi lead his boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys to success in Argentina, but a spell in the MLS is more likely. Messi has previously expressed a desire to play in the MLS and a move could improve his US brand.

“I always had the dream of being able to enjoy and have the experience of living in the United States,” once said Messi. “I want to experience what the league there is like.” And there’s one club belonging to a Manchester United legend that would love to have him.

Inter Miami have been chasing Messi’s signature for a while, as he owns a penthouse in the city. “Leo Messi is still one of the best players in the world, his skills have not diminished,” said the club’s co-owner Jorge Mas earlier this month.

“David has a relationship with him, if he does leave PSG, at the time he leaves it, we’d love to see him be a player at Inter Miami and be part of our community. Can it happen? Look, we’ll push. I’m an optimist at heart. Could I see that happening? It’s a possibility.”

A move to Miami certainly has it’s advantages. Messi would be able to fulfil a self-confessed dream and turn Beckham’s club into a global phenomenon. He would undoubtedly be the biggest name in the MLS’ history since Becks joined LA Galaxy all those years ago.

The purists, though, would view that transfer as a quiet end to a glittering career. Messi is one of the greatest footballers of all time and deserves a last dance. Many thought that would come at PSG, yet that doesn’t look like happening.

Messi’s next move is seismic – the wax stamp on his footballing legacy. A return to Barcelona would be a poetic way to say goodbye, as would success with Newell’s Old Boys, though the script doesn’t always have the perfect ending.

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