Lionel Messi, the 33-year-old Argentine soccer player and record six-time Ballon d’Or recipient, has been the subject of many headlines, all wondering the same thing: Will Messi leave FC Barcelona to play for Manchester City FC? The back-and-forth came to a close when Messi agreed to stay at Barcelona for the 2020-2021 season.
The headlines all started in late August, when Manchester City announced they had come to an agreement with Messi that involved a five-year, €700 million contract. This contract included three years in the Premier League playing for Manchester City followed by two years in the MLS playing for New York City FC. These terms suited Messi, who agreed to the contract and had been looking to leave Barcelona, a club he has played with for nearly 20 years.
Such a contract would secure Messi’s status as the best-paid soccer player ever and might give him an opportunity at another championship, a record-breaking seventh Ballon d’Or. However, this new partnership between Manchester City and Messi had a critical flaw: Messi is not a free agent, meaning he is not free to leave Barcelona. His contract still has one year remaining, for which the release clause is an additional €700 million. The hope was to negotiate Messi’s early release from the contract in order to secure his transfer to Manchester City.
That’s not how the events panned out, though. On Friday, Sept. 4, Messi announced that he will be staying at Barcelona in order to finish his contract. The decision came with some reluctance, as Messi had been hoping to leave, and believed he would be able to based on conversations he’d had with Josep Maria Bartomeu, the club’s president. Messi said in one of his interviews that they both agreed that Barcelona needed younger players and that Messi’s time was coming to an end. Messi added that he wanted to work with Pep Guardiola—former manager of Barcelona and current manager of Manchester City—again, wanting to compete at the highest level.
Despite their previous talks, Bartomeu backed out on their agreement and Messi decided to see out the rest of his contract to avoid taking Barcelona to court. However, Manchester City is still allowed to start pre-contract negotiations in January and have said they will be offering Messi the same contract. It would seem this deal has only been delayed. The Premier League will have to wait one more year for Messi.