Messi: Real Madrid, Napoli, Dortmund... making amends
Lionel Messi looks set to leave Barcelona, so we took a tongue-in-cheek look at where he could go next to settle some grudges.
Lionel Messi has told Barcelona he wants to leave the club. The end of an era is, seemingly, in sight and that will usher in a strange new world, for Barca and his next employers.
Messi future: less likely, but somehow fulfilling
Unsurprisingly, debates have raged ever since the news came to light on Tuesday, with Barca receiving communication that their talisman, the most iconic player in their modern history, wants out.
In some ways it was predictable. The turmoil engulfing Barca's hierarchy and their decision making in the past few years looked destined to come to a head – there would be major consequences, and Messi leaving was always going to be the worst-case scenario.
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Whether he does or not is a different matter. Some believe his request is a power-play to oust president Josep Maria Bartomeu early, and there are plenty calling for his resignation.
But, for arguably the first time, Messi leaving Barca appears a real possibility What will determine his next destination? Romance? Trophies? Vengeance?
If it's the latter, given almost every football club's Twitter account is throwing their hat in the ring, we have a few tongue-in-cheek destinations in mind, however unlikely they may be…
Imagine the chaos, the hysteria. If Barca's board have angered him so much, what better way to really get his own back on them? Moving to the Santiago Bernabeu would be a remarkable switch, the ultimate act of vengeance. Luis Figo had a pig's head thrown towards him when he returned to Camp Nou after joining Madrid – you can only wonder at what reception would await Messi if he were to commit the cardinal sin of crossing that divide.
There is a running joke in England that Messi "wouldn't be able to do it on a wet and windy night in Stoke". It derives from pundit Andy Gray, who in 2010 claimed – without a hint of irony – that Messi would "struggle on a cold night at the Britannia Stadium". His comment became embellished, but was regularly used as a stick to beat Messi with by Premier League fans who wanted to accentuate the physicality of England's elite division. Based on the idea Stoke were scrappy and the city sees more than its fair share of bad weather, as well as the stadium's renown for being windy, it was seen as the Premier League's grimmest away trip. After earning millions every season for the past 15 years or so, why not take a modest deal to prove he can in fact do it on a wet and windy night in Stoke?
While Manchester City appear to be leading the chase, Inter are also being strongly linked with Messi. But a different Serie A move that would capture the imagination even more would be joining Napoli. Not only would Messi's arrival get one over on long-standing rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who would no longer be the solo big ticket in Serie A, it would give him the chance dispel some other demons. For much of his career Messi has contended with people saying he's not at Diego Maradona's level – maybe it's time to disprove such claims where El Pibe de Oro left his greatest mark…
For all of Messi's apparent issues with the Barca board, it seems unlikely that he doesn't still love the club – after all, he was signed up as a 12-year-old. The 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich earlier this month will have hurt, particularly as it looks like being his final match for the club. How better to get revenge than to move to Die Roten's arch-rivals Dortmund? He could be the final piece of the puzzle that finally overthrows Bayern's Bundesliga dominance.
Here are a few more likely destinations.