The 33-year-old has apparently had enough of Barcelona's circus act, reportedly telling the club he wants out. If the Argentine gets his way and the board waives the €700-million release clause in his contract, clubs will have the rare and distinguished privilege of signing one of the greatest players in football history on a free transfer.
But not so fast. Messi reportedly earns a base salary of around €70 million per season at Barcelona, and any team competing for his signature would have to offer him similar wages. That's tough to do at any time, let alone in the Financial Fair Play era.
In the meantime, let's indulge in some fantasy. Here's what could happen if Messi ends up leaving Barcelona:
Reunite with Guardiola at Manchester City
This is the easy one. Pep Guardiola is enamored with Messi, one of his biggest supporters and most influential teachers. Guardiola nearly melted when the six-time Ballon d'Or winner nutmegged James Milner in a 2015 Champions League clash against City. He's waxed lyrical about the Argentine every chance he's gotten, and in Guardiola's eyes, Messi's the undisputed GOAT.
So the relationship is there, and after so many years under Barcelona's fractured management, perhaps it's exactly that - a strong bond, a solid understanding, and a support system - that Messi craves. Not to mention that his best years came under Guardiola's supervision and that some of City's top executives worked at Barcelona at the time.
City are reportedly studying whether they can sign Messi without violating FFP regulations. That would be some feat - and almost make a mockery of UEFA's attempts to rein in spending. City only recently avoided a two-year European ban for alleged FFP breaches, and even though the club has seemingly infinite resources, it's carefully dipped its toe in the transfer market in recent seasons, refraining from entering into any bidding wars.
But City remain one of the few teams to have both the money and the ambition Messi would demand. The club could also use Messi to keep Guardiola around for a few more years. The Spaniard's contract expires next summer, and his future is still to be determined. What better way to convince him to stay?
Become the new face of Manchester United
United have no such problems paying big fees. Even if CEO Ed Woodward likes to think he can drive a bargain, he ultimately pays what the selling club demands.