By Peter Staunton
The current contractual standoff between Barcelona and Lionel Messi is only likely to end one way - with the top scorer signing a mammoth new deal which will be the richest in football. There is a long way to go, however, on that front and the Catalans might well consider their options despite the transfer ban looming.
The club is believed to be offering Messi a five-year contract worth 200 million euros. That equates to €40 million per season. Messi is alleged to be unhappy at the terms offered. He feels he is worth more than that. With his current deal expiring in 2018, his transfer value will never be higher.
Last summer Barca legend Johan Cruyff suggested that Messi should be sold in order to accommodate Neymar in the lineup. He also accurately predicted that Barca would suffer from playing the two together. After the season Barcelona has endured something has got to give.
There are rumblings in the Spanish press this week that Barca is laying the ground work for a Messi sale over the summer. It would be the costliest transfer in the history of football.
Paris St-Germain and Manchester City are the only two clubs who could do a deal for Messi in the current market but it could be a gamble worth taking for Barcelona. Would the club rather take €200 million for Messi and rebuild the team - transfer ban notwithstanding - or give him €200 million with no guarantee that his best days are ahead of him?
That transfer ban will hurt Barcelona this summer more than any other because the team is in need of a drastic overhaul. Barcelona needs players in practically every position and so the club desperately needs to have it overturned. The appeal process continues and Barca expects that its legal team will achieve a favorable result.
Maybe Messi is in need of a fresh challenge himself. Four Ballons d'Or and a wealth of titles have been accrued during his time at Barcelona. He has smashed every record in the books. On a sporting level, there is not a lot for him left to achieve at Camp Nou. The way Messi has played this season suggests that life without him for Barcelona is not as unthinkable as it once was. Pep Guardiola reportedly walked away from Barca after failing in his attempt to clear out what he saw as distracted and under-motivated players. Messi, legitimately, finds himself in that category today.
The 26-year-old has scored 25 league goals this season but there are indications that all is not well. He has struggled for the best part of a year with various knocks and niggles. His output on the field has noticeably decreased. Barca is enduring a torrid season and Messi cannot be absolved from blame. He endured derision for failing to cover the ground in the Barca's Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid. Radomir Antic, the former Barca coach, suggested that Messi deliberately failed to keep up as a means of punishment to Tata Martino who fielded him out of position.
Messi remains behind only Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world but there are reasons for Barca to contemplate selling.

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