Lionel Messi was pictured dining with PSG players just 24 hours before the bombshell that he had made a dramatic U-turn on his decision to re-sign with Barcelona – an ominous photo that could prove to be pivotal in ending his 21-year stay at the Nou Camp.
The Catalan outfit have been working on a deal to re-sign their club legend all summer long after his contract expired, but the cash-strapped side have been struggling to find the wage budget to accommodate him.
All signs had pointed towards Messi pledging his future as he embarked on talks with president Joan Laporta, but now the club have confirmed he will not continue with them next season after the superstar reportedly changed his mind having become ‘unhappy’ with his pay-cut, and also the quality of the current squad.
Lionel Messi has dramatically U-turned on his decision to renew his contract with Barcelona
The Argentine was pictured with four PSG stars just 24 hours before the huge bombshell
And a picture that emerged of him enjoying a meal out with PSG players may point to his sudden change of heart, as he was pictured with former Barca team-mate Neymar, Argentina team-mates Angel Di Maria, Leandro Paredes and Italian star Marco Verratti.
Neymar – who has led calls for Messi to join him in Paris in the past – uploaded the photo of the five out in Ibiza, captioned ‘Amigos’, with nearly six million likes.
With Messi beaming alongside the PSG stars, it will only ramp up speculation that the Parc de Princes could be his next destination after confirmation arrived that he will officially be leaving the Nou Camp after just over 20 years.
His former Barcelona team-mate Neymar has previously pleaded with Messi to join PSG
Messi came close to departing the club last summer after informing Barca by burofax that he wanted an exit, although reluctantly agreed to stay after former president Josep Bartomeu insisted any club would have to pay his 700m euro release clause.
At that point, Neymar stoked the flames by admitting he was desperate to play alongside Messi once again after they linked up so well together at Barca.
‘What I want most of all is to play with Messi again, to be able to enjoy him once again on the pitch,’ Neymar said in December.
‘He can play in my place, I have no problem with that. But I want to play with him next year, for sure. We have to do it next season.’
Angel Di Maria (L) has also made no secret of his desire for Messi to move to Parc des Princes
Di Maria, also in the photo, said this April that it would be ‘wonderful’ to play with Messi at club level as his contract approached its end.
‘From my whole career, from everything I’ve seen, I think Leo is from another planet. To have him as a team-mate would be wonderful,’ he told BeIn Sports.
‘But he is a Barcelona player, he has a contract. After that, we’ll see. I talk a lot with him and I always tell him that the important thing is his happiness and that of his family. It’s hard to say anything else.’
Another of his Argentina team-mates Leandro Paredes has also made no secret of his desire to have Messi with him at PSG, saying the team would welcome him ‘with open arms’.
‘Messi at PSG? I hope so, we all want him to come but it will be his decision,’ he told ESPN in December.
Midfielder Marco Verratti said Messi signing for PSG would be ‘another gift’ to him in his career
‘We have an incredible squad, good players, good people, we take advantage of that.
‘As I have said, I hope Leo will make the best decision for him, but we will welcome him with open arms.’
As it turns out – everyone in the photo has made a plea for Messi to join PSG, as Verratti also teased the possibility of him joining – claiming it would be ‘another gift’ to him in his carer.
‘Of course I’d like to play with Messi,’ he told Canal+. ‘I’d be giving the ball to Neymar and Messi, standing back and watching.
‘It’d be fantastic to have him with us – another gift that football would’ve given me.’
The latest developments will come as a hammer blow to returning president Joan Laporta
Messi returned to Barcelona on Thursday following a holiday with his wife and children
It comes after the stunning revelation that Messi’s incredible chapter with Barcelona is finally coming to an end.
In a shock statement, Barcelona blamed LaLiga for ‘economic obstacles’ stopping them from handing him a new lucrative contract.
‘Despite having reached an agreement between FC Barcelona and Leo Messi and with the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, it cannot be formalized due to economic and structural obstacles (Spanish LaLiga regulations),’ it said.
‘Given this situation, Lionel Messi will not continue linked to FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of both the player and the Club cannot finally be fulfilled.
‘Barca would like to thank with all its heart the player’s contribution to the enhancement of the institution and wishes him the best in his personal and professional life.’