Paris, Barcelona or Miami – where next for Messi?
Despite clearly approaching the latter stages of his career, Messi, with 11 goals and 14 assists from 17 Ligue 1 and Champions League appearances this season, is very much back to his frightening best.
Messi and his family did not enjoy the happiest of departures from Barcelona, where he had starred for more than half his life, nor did he hit the ground running after his arrival at Paris in August last year.
Shirt sales on his signing for the club exceeded those of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar when they came to PSG. Unfortunately the initial performances, affected by injuries, adaptation and a tough Covid infection, did not totally live up to all the hype.
But as everything has fallen into place in his personal life then that has swiftly been reflected by his performances.
Put simply, if PSG were to put a contract on the table and tell him it had to be signed there and then, Messi would do so.
Messi goes to Qatar carrying the hopes and dreams of the entire nation of Argentina, the main asset in what looks like an extremely good side built around him by coach Lionel Scaloni. They look very much like they could be there or thereabouts in the competition.
For Messi this will be the perfect litmus test as to whether or not he still deserves his place among the elite, whether he is still up to the task in hand. Then he will decide at what level he wants to play.
Messi’s current contract, which runs until the end of June next year, was for two years plus an option of a third, although the extra year only comes into effect if both parties agree to it.
According to much of the UK media it is David Beckham’s Inter Miami who are currently favourites to sign Messi when his contract with PSG finishes at the end of June.
What is certain is that Inter Miami have everything in place to guarantee bringing him into Major League Soccer as soon as possible, which is completely different to saying that he will be joining them next season.
What is almost certainly a done deal is the arrival of Sergio Busquets, Messi’s great friend and former Barcelona team-mate.
In a recent BBC documentary on Messi, Xavi said how much he would love to coach the Argentine. What is also certain is that the Barcelona coach is very much the engine driving the idea constantly being highlighted in Barcelona friendly sports media surrounding Messi’s potential return.
My feeling is that Xavi has already spoken to Messi and explained to him how he thinks he can help to make Barcelona a great power once again, particularly in the role of an attacking midfielder.
Ever the pragmatist, club president Joan Laporta is not about to start dismissing any suggestions that he might return, and has spoken many times in general terms about how the Messi and Barcelona story is far from being finished.
In fact, Xavi has previously insisted to Laporta that Messi was the piece missing in the team and that he wanted him back as soon as possible.