Transfer Talk: Where Messi could head next after World Cup triumph
Lionel Messi’s status as one of the world’s greatest ever footballers is firmly sealed — and the superstar's club future is now set to be a hot topic.
The iconic No10 captained Argentina to their first World Cup triumph in 36 years in Qatar — scoring twice in the final as they dispatched France on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw after extra-time.
With his Paris Saint-Germain contract expiring next summer, clubs across the world are now flocking to make themselves what could be the final destination of the 35-year-old’s stellar career.
We look at where the legendary playmaker could head next.
A switch to Major League Soccer seems the most likely possibility at this point, with reports last month even suggesting a deal to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami has already been agreed.
Messi’s camp were keen to distance themselves from those claims at the time with focus firmly on his exploits in Qatar.
But with his aspirations now achieved, rumours of a switch to the Sunshine State will surely re-emerge.
Messi has proven he can still dazzle at the very top level after scoring seven World Cup goals and providing three assists this winter — a showing which earned him the tournament's Golden Ball award.
It therefore remains to be seen whether he is ready to move to a league which, for all its development in recent years, would undoubtedly be a step down in the quality the magician is used to.
Remain in Paris
PSG remain hopeful they can extend the two-year deal Messi signed in the summer of 2021 following his departure from Barcelona.
Club president Nasser Al Khelaifi said: "No decision will be made on Leo Messi’s contract before the new year. We are very happy and Leo’s very happy with us too.
"We will find the best solution together with Messi, we’re so happy and this is fantastic."
His first season in the French capital — his first away from Barca for 21 years — was somewhat underwhelming as he seemingly struggled to settle in his new surroundings.
But he was back to the very top of his game prior to the World Cup break, managing an incredible 25 goal involvements in 18 games in all competitions for Les Parisiens.
If he can continue that kind of form upon his return, there seems plenty of motivation to continue lighting up the Parc des Princes alongside Kylian Mbappe and Co.
Despite leaving the Camp Nou in somewhat acrimonious circumstances 14 months ago, Barcelona still seem intent on sealing the return of their club legend.
Crippling financial problems forced Messi to emotionally end his long-term association with the Blaugrana but he is still held in the highest regard in Catalonia by clubs chiefs and supporters alike.
President Joan Laporta has rarely stopped talking up a potential return for the superstar since his departure.
In October, he said: "Leo knows that at Barca he always has his home."
With former team-mate Xavi at the helm, a return to the club he won countless domestic and European titles with could well remain a tempting prospect for Messi.
A move back home
Where better a place to spend the twilight of an extraordinary career than the place where it all started?
The Rosario native spent five years at local side Newell’s Old Boys before joining Barcelona as a 13-year-old in 2000 and an eventual move back to his boyhood club has always seemed a strong possibility.
Former Old Boys player Fabian Costello, who hails from the same neighbourhood as Messi, believes it would be the perfect way to sign off in the game.
He said: "Everybody says now that Messi is going to go back to Newell’s Old Boys. It’s a rumour. It would be so special in many ways.
"This [the World Cup win] is his greatest achievement, but the rumour is they want to make all his dreams come true, and his dream was to play for Newell’s Old Boys."
Given his proven longevity in the game, a final swansong there remains a possibility even if it does not come to fruition next summer.