Lionel Messi, one of the best soccer players on the planet and one of the world’s richest professional athletes to be playing sports right now, could be making his way to the U.S. soon.
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Messi reportedly told his club FC Barcelona that he wants out from his contract – a move that has sent shockwaves through the soccer world the same way that Tom Brady's departure from the NFL’s New England Patriots rocked football.
The Argentine great is eyeing a transfer to Manchester City of the English Premier League, ESPN reported Wednesday, citing sources. The move could pave the way for Messi eventually playing in Major League Soccer, following the likes of David Beckham, David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimović and other global soccer stars.
The City Football Group owns Manchester City and NYC FC of MLS. ESPN reported that if Messi transfers to Manchester City, he could have a clause in his contract which could include him playing in the U.S. after three seasons in the English Premier League.
Messi’s first contract with FC Barcelona came nearly two decades ago when he signed with the club on a napkin after a lunch between his reps and club officials. This time around, Messi used a telegram service to let the club know that he intends to leave.
His intentions could lead to a bigger fight.
Messi hoped to use a clause in his contact that allowed him to leave for free after the end of the soccer season. Barcelona said the clause, however, expired on June 10, meaning that Messi would have to pay the transfer clause if he wants to leave before his contract ends in June 2021. The clause is a fee of about $827 million. Manchester City could negotiate a fee with the club for Messi to transfer, according to ESPN.
According to Forbes, Messi is the world's third highest-paid athlete behind Roger Federer and Cristiano Ronaldo. He earned a staggering $104 million last year.
Much like Brady’s last memory in a Patriots uniform was a Pick Six returned by the opposing team in the AFC playoffs earlier this year, Messi’s last memory with Barcelona also comes in defeat.
Barcelona lost to Bayern Munich in the Champions League final over the weekend, 8-2. It was one of the worst losses in the club and Messi’s history.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.