He's leaving Barcelona, but where will Messi play next? Dan Fitch weighs up the options.
"City may consider signing Messi as a less complicated way of boosting their forward line than purchasing Harry Kane from Tottenham, which could create an interesting sub-plot."
Barca confirm Messi is leaving
It's been talked about for a long time, but it looks as if the moment is finally here. Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona.
After 778 games, 672 goals, ten La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey wins, four Champions League victories and just the six Ballon d'Or awards, Messi and Barcelona are to part ways. The Spanish giants followed up rumours that broke this evening with a statement confirming Messi's exit.
Two weeks after Messi's contract expired on July 1st, a new contract between the club and player was agreed, but it was dependant on Barcelona being able to sell players and reduce their wage bill in order to afford it and comply with La Liga spending rules.
"Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled," said the club statement.
"Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles.
"FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life."
So where does Messi go now?
Messi might be 34-years old, but the competition for his services is likely to be fierce. Though not quite the player he once was, he still scored 38 goals for Barcelona last season and helped Argentina to a Copa America victory over the summer.
PSG are the 1.674/6 favourites to sign the forward. Messi's compatriot Mauricio Pochettino is the manager of the French club and he would be reunited with his former Barcelona teammate Neymar. PSG certainly have the money to make the deal a reality and Messi could relish the opportunity to compete for the Champions League.
The other obvious destination is Manchester City at 5.004/1. Messi could play under his former manager Pep Guardiola. City may consider signing Messi as a less complicated way of boosting their forward line than purchasing Harry Kane from Tottenham, which could create an interesting sub-plot.
Messi is 12.011/1 to move to America with any MLS club and 15.014/1 to go to Inter, which looks unlikely considering that the Italian champions seem to be having their own financial issues. A move to Juventus at 21.020/1 would see Messi in the same team as Cristiano Ronaldo, which even now, is an enticing prospect.
Manchester United are 19.018/1, but have just spent a lot of money on Jadon Sancho. Chelsea would seem a likelier destination at 23.022/1, as they are one of the few clubs who could soak up Messi's massive wages.
If Messi decides that it's the time to head home, then he could return to the former club of his youth, Newell's Old Boys. They are 21.020/1 to bring Messi back to Argentina.
What does it mean for Barcelona?
Despite the statement from the club, Barcelona are still the second favourites to be Messi's club following the end of the transfer window at 3.55/2. A theory has already been floated, suggesting that the statement was a ploy to put pressure on La Liga. The Spanish league will not want to see their greatest ever player walk away, as that will have it's own commercial implications for them, but would they soften their stance to allow Messi to stay?
Barcelona were favourites to win La Liga earlier this afternoon, before this story broke. Now they are second favourites at 2.747/4, behind Real Madrid at 2.546/4 and ahead of the title holders Atletico Madrid at 3.613/5.