Lionel Messi during Barcelona training
Lionel Messi has now played his last La Liga game for Barcelona this season, if not for good. Image Credit: AFP

Has Lionel Messi, the Argentine genius, played his last match for Barcelona? The speculation gained momentum on Friday as Messi was given permission by Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman to miss this weekend’s final La Liga match of the season against Eibar and take holiday, the club confirmed.

“The striker can enjoy a rest before next month’s Copa America after a season in which he is one of the players in the squad who has played most,” Barcelona said in a statement.

The Argentine’s contract expires at the end of June and there has been no announcement on an extension.

Messi had famously requested to leave the club last year and was linked by British and Spanish media with a move to Manchester City or Paris St Germain, but ultimately stayed put for one more season.

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Should Messi not sign a new contract then his final game for the club would be last weekend’s dismal 2-1 defeat at the Camp Nou to Celta Vigo.

The 33-year-old has already played 47 matches this season for Barca, scoring 38 goals, but his future at the club is one of the hot topics at the fag end of European season to see whether he could join up with former coach Pep Guardiola.

The British media has added fuel to the fire by saying that Messi is open to a move to City, with the 33-year-old interested in a one-year deal worth £25 million, including the option of a second year at the end. The move would make Messi the best-paid player in Premier League history, and it seems that Guardiola is ready to make it happen after having so far waited in the wings to see how contract negotiations played out.

Barcelona have offered their talisman a new deal though it is believed to be on reduced terms. Barcelona are still hopeful Messi will stay at Camp Nou, though much will depend on their ability to tempt Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland to the club.

Barcelona’s defeat by Celta Vigo on Sunday leaves them third in La Liga, seven points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and only two ahead of fourth-placed Sevilla.

The Copa America, which was postponed from 2020 because of the coronavirus, begins in Argentina on June 13 with the final on July 10. The event was due to be co-hosted with Colombia but civil unrest there, which has resulted in 42 deaths, has led to all games being moved to Argentina.