The largest bidding war in sports history may have just begun

Joshua Paneto, Contributing Writer

Lionel Messi shocked the sporting world on August 25, after informing FC Barcelona of his desire to leave the club, after twenty years service. The decision came days after the club’s embarrassing 8-2 Champion’s League loss to Bayern Munich. The humiliation at the hands of the would-be European champions seemed to act as a catalyst for larger problems that have been brewing between Messi and the club for years.

Regardless of what exactly sparked the decision to leave, Messi has put his decision in writing. He and his representatives believe that he can make the decision unilaterally, due to a clause in his contract that enables him to leave for free as long as he announces his intention to do so before the end of the season. Barcelona is expected to contest when the season actually ended. The club will argue that the clause expired in June, when the Spanish and European campaigns were scheduled to finish. Messi’s side will argue that the unique circumstances of the pandemic-delayed season render the timing irrelevant, and that he is within his right to activate his clause until the end of August. The final decision that is made is crucial, as the upholding of the release clause would mean that any club that wishes to sign Messi away from Barcelona would first have to pay the €700 million release clause assigned to his current contract. This is equivalent to $834 million. Upon paying this, the club would also have to negotiate a transfer fee, in addition to paying Messi his yearly wages. It seems to be an afterthought in this that Messi is also the highest paid player in the world. At the end of the day, the inclusion of the release clause would make it nearly impossible for any club to pry him away from the Spanish giant.

Should Messi leave Barcelona, there are a few likely destinations for arguably the greatest soccer player in history. The most likely club that comes to mind is Manchester City. Not only is it one the few clubs that has the funds to afford a player like Messi, their manager Pep Guardiola, is also a former Barcelona manager that has a good relationship with the player. Manchester City also came up as the top alternative destination to Messi in 2017, when he last considered leaving Barcelona. Another likely candidate is Paris Saint-Germain Football Club (PSG). Neymar, one of Messi’s former teammates and close friends, currently plays for PSG. It has been confirmed that they have previously spoken about reuniting in France. The addition of Messi to a PSG attack that already includes Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Ángel Di María would make PSG a virtually unstoppable opponent. Chelsea, Manchester United and Inter Milan are also possible destinations, but whether they are able to afford Messi will be determined by the inclusion of his release clause fee.

What Barcelona decides to do with their star player remains to be seen. Only time will tell if the club decides to let him leave or keep him until the expiration of his current contract. Whether Messi leaves the club or not will not tamper his legacy as the greatest player in the world, or possibly the greatest to ever step foot on the pitch.