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Moving on? Lionel Messi could leave Paris Saint Germain and join Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The big question right now in football is this: where will Lionel Messi be plying his trade after his contract with Paris Saint Germain ends?

Naturally, there are many rumours flying around about the next potential stop for the Argentinian World Cup winner. He has been linked with all the big clubs in Europe including a sensational return to Barcelona.

His PSG deal runs out in June and the Ligue 1 reigning champions would dearly love for him to remain with them. But Messi has a big decision to make as his next club could well be his last.

Big money move?

The 35-year-old is still playing at the top of his game and has a lot to offer. But will his next move be purely about money? He is already a millionaire and doesn’t need the cash. Maybe he ought to think about signing for a club that will allow him to excel on the pitch. A club that is challenging for titles. A club that would realistically allow him to add to his collection of Ballon d’Or wins. But if he is offered a crazy amount, then who can blame him if he is tempted?

He joined PSG in August 2021 on a two-year deal after an emotional departure from Barca. The Spanish giants were forced to let him go due to financial issues that plagued the club. Messi since formed a fine partnership with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe but it appears the trio could all be leaving in the summer. Mbappe has been linked with Real Madrid and Neymar with Liverpool. If they all were to leave, where would that leave PSG? In serious trouble, one would imagine.

If Messi decides to quit Paris I believe there are three very real destinations for him. The first is a return to Spain with Barca. He made it clear that he did not want to leave them and they would welcome their hero back with open arms, despite their financial problems. They would happily make sacrifices in their squad to make room for his return and he would probably even accept a hefty pay cut too to make it happen. He scored 672 goals in 778 matches for them and lifted 35 trophies during his spell at the club. Ever since he left, they just have not been the same.

Barca is definitely his first option but if that doesn’t happen then I think he could re-join his former Barca coach Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. He had been linked with the Premier League champions before moving to France but now might be the time when he actually joins them. City have deep pockets and could easily afford him – even though the club is under investigation for Financial Fair Play breaches. He could forge an incredible partnership with Erling Haaland - City fans would be desperate to see them both in attack.

Saudi Pro league

The third option is a move to Saudi Arabia with Al Hilal. Cristiano Ronaldo took the bold step to play in the Middle East when he signed a mega-money deal with Al Nassr and Messi could follow suit and play in the Saudi Pro League. Al Hilal would be willing to break the bank to sign him. It is rumoured they would offer him a staggering £245 million-a-year deal. That would dwarf Ronaldo’s £177 million per year pay contract with Al Nassr. Saudi Arabia is bidding to host the 2030 World Cup and getting Messi on board as an ambassador is something the country would dearly love.

For years, Messi and Ronaldo battled it out to be crowned the best player on the planet when they played for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

They could be set to renew football’s greatest rivalry once again in front of a brand new audience.