Report: Messi could leave Barcelona, Premier League awaits

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File this under: “we’ve heard this before… but it would still be awesome if it actually happened.”

A report from Sky Sports’ Guillem Balague claims that Lionel Messi has “never been closer” to leaving Barcelona, as the Argentine superstar is weighing up his options elsewhere.

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Messi, 28, has been at Barca his entire career but with big boys from the Premier League circling — Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have all been tracking this situation — he could call it quits in Spain and move to England.

Here’s more from Balague:

“It is the closest he’s ever been to leaving Barcelona,” Balague said. “It doesn’t mean he will but it is the closest he has ever been to leaving the club.”

Why would Messi leave Barca, a club whose fans treat him as a god-like figure?

Good question. With Messi breaking pretty much every record in club history and Spanish league history — he has scored 418 in 493 games for Barca — perhaps he wants a fresh challenge after winning everything there is in Spain and Europe with the only club he has ever known. Plus, tax fraud allegations from the Spanish authorities against him and his father (Messi could spend up to 22 months in jail if found guilty) will have tested his resolve to remain in Spain when lucrative offers continue to pour in from England and the likes of Paris Saint-Germain elsewhere in Europe.

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Barca’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu has hit back at the claims about Messi leaving the Nou Camp and pointed at the fact that Messi still has three years remaining on his current contract

“We are not in the negotiation phase yet, when the time comes it will be presented. He has a contract for the next three seasons,” Bartomeu told the Daily Star.

It is hard to ever see Messi leaving Barcelona, especially with Bartomeu in charge, but as the years tick on, every player has his price.

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How much would it cost to buy Messi? The release clause in his current Barca contract is reportedly set at a staggering $276 million, which means even the richest clubs in the world couldn’t afford him given the current UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations in place. However, after a career of service to Barca, even if it means he strengthens one of their rivals for European glory, would the Catalan club give Messi their blessing to move on? I very much doubt it.

Watch this space as Chelsea, Man City and Man United clamber to try and jump to the front of the queue to snap up the four-time World Player of the Year — if he becomes available — in his prime.