Inter Miami are willing to offer Lionel Messi an equity stake in the club to convince him to join this summer, although the player's preference is to stay in Europe until the 2024 Copa America in order to try and win the Champions League one last time. The question is whether that is still at Paris Saint-Germain or another suitable offer presents itself, since the Barcelona hierarchy have so far not even contacted the 35-year-old about a move.
Messi has the option of a one-year contract extension with the French champions on exactly the same financial terms but is currently holding off until he gets concrete answers about the project for next season. PSG are still unable to tell the player’s camp who the manager will be or what the forward line will look like, amid expectation they will have to offload players to meet Financial Fair Play concerns. Messi has told the club he will make his decision once he has assurances on these issues.
While the ongoing uncertainty has fed into expectation that the World Cup-winning captain will enjoy an emotional return to Barcelona, The Independent has been told the Spanish league leaders have not yet even contacted him about a proposal, let alone made a concrete offer.
There is a feeling within the football industry that the Catalan club do not have the finances for such a move, and that some of the noise around a return is public relations to try and show they tried. While Barca manager Xavi has been in constant contact with his former teammate, talking to Messi every single week, there has been no formal approach from the club.
The only conversation that Messi's father and representative Jorge has had with Barcelona president Joan Laporta in the last year has been a 20-minute meeting over plans for a tribute to the player before he leaves Europe. There is also the feeling that, given the last few seasons, Messi has a better chance of winning the Champions League again at PSG than at Barcelona.
While there has been tentative interest from Premier League clubs, there have been no tangible offers.
It means the Qatar project remains the first option since it offers the best chance of winning Europe’s premier club competition. Al Hilal have meanwhile made Messi a huge offer, as part of an extensive Saudi Arabian plan to revive the Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry in the country's top division, before a prospective 2030 World Cup bid. The idea would be to create a new buzz around the Saudi Pro League, and try to make it a “home of football glamour” before that World Cup.
Messi is currently reluctant to take up such an offer, though, as he wants to win another Champions League to add to his legacy after the World Cup.
Should it come to the point where there are no suitable offers in Europe, though, Inter Miami are ready to challenge Al Hilal with a lucrative deal. The David Beckham-owned franchise will offer him an equity stake in the club to join this summer. That comes after long-time negotiations between Inter Miami and Messi, as well as MLS. Jorge Messi has met with the competition in the past, and there is a plan that the player can prove a transformative figure in the competition's history, especially as he can forge new links with the US's Latin American football community.
As it stands, though, Messi wants at least one more season in the Champions League.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies