Is Lionel Messi Exiting Barcelona and Is the Club Releasing him Out

Lionel Messi

Amid reports that Barcelona have put most of their squad up for sale following their Champions League humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich, the one player they would most like to keep hold of reportedly wants to leave the club. Esporte Inerativo, who were first to break the news of Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain, claim Lionel Messi has had enough of carrying the weight of the Camp Nou on his shoulders and wants to move elsewhere, a state of affairs that has prompted immediate speculation he could be off to Manchester City or PSG, the only two teams that can realistically afford to trigger his release clause should he hand in a transfer request. Barcelona, it should be noted, could probably do with the money.

While a reunion with Pep Guardiola doesn’t sound beyond the realms of possibility, City’s latest exit from the Champions League has cast a sliver of doubt over the manager’s future at the club. Rumour has it the club hierarchy are ready to make a move for Mauricio Pochettino should their current manager decline to sign a new contract. The out-of-work former Spurs boss is likely in high demand and is believed to be the frontrunner to replace dead man walking Quique Setién at Camp Nou, despite his past affiliation with city rivals Espanyol. Quite how the current past-their-pomp squad would cope with the physical demands of the Argentinian coach and his staff is anyone’s guess, although Ronald Koeman, Xavi and Thierry Henry have all also been linked with the gig. Along with Messi, goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, defender Clément Lenglet and midfielder Frenkie de Jong are the only other players Barça are eager to keep as they plan a mass clear-out.

Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcântara is reported to have agreed personal terms with Liverpool and could sign a four-year deal with the Premier League champions once his current club have finished their Champions League campaign. “Thiago played for Barcelona, and seven years for Bayern,” said his current manager Hansi Flick. “Now he wants a new challenge, which in my opinion must be the Premier League.”

Joe Hart has emerged as a surprise potential target for Tottenham, who are in need of a homegrown player to bolster their ranks. A free agent since leaving Burnley in June, the much-maligned Hart would presumably find himself playing second fiddle behind Hugo Lloris if he opts for a move to White Hart Lane.

Despite being linked repeatedly with a move for Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell, Chelsea are eyeing up Juventus defender Alex Sandro as an alternative should they fail to land their first choice. Frank Lampard could also bring in Brighton centre-half Lewis Dunk or out-of-favour Manchester City centre-half John Stones to help make his defence a little less porous, but will face competition for the former from Spurs.

Having spent last season impressing on loan at Leeds, who are resigned to being priced out of the market when it comes to trying to sign him on a permanent deal, Brighton defender Ben White has forced himself on to the radars of Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham, but won’t be sold for a penny less than £50m.

And finally, with his name plate up tightly screwed on the door of the manager’s office at Juventus, Andrea Pirlo has identified strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Raúl Jiménez as potential transfer targets. While Arsenal are open to offers for their striker, Wolves are unlikely to be open to offers for their Mexican goalscorer.

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