When most people think about Barcelona these days, they will still think about their captain Lionel Messi. Messi has been at the Camp Nou his entire career, and has been at the heart of the club’s success for over fifteen years, breaking all sorts of records along the way. With Messi, Barca have won ten La Liga titles, six Copa del Rey titles, and won the Champions League on four occasions. And at the same time, Messi himself has scored more than 750 senior career goals for club and country, scored the most hat-tricks in La Liga and Champions League history, contributed the most La Liga assists, and won the Ballon D’Or six times. It would be hard to imagine Lionel Messi playing his football anywhere else.

Yet last summer, after expressing dissatisfaction with the direction the club was heading on and off the field, Messi attempted to activate a release clause in his contract in a bid to force a move away from the Camp Nou, with fans of clubs such as PSG and Manchester City salivating at the prospect. Barca strongly resisted his transfer bid, insisting that any interested party would have to pay a 700million Euro buyout clause.

In the end, Messi backed down and announced that he would stay with Barca until the end of his contract. So the big question now is will this be his last season at the Camp Nou?

Realistically, there are very few clubs in Europe that could afford to sign Lionel Messi. It has cost Barcelona massively to retain his services over the years – Messi’s career earnings to date have surpassed a billion dollars, more than enough for a few top paying casino NZ – and the only clubs that could possibly compete financially when it comes to signing Messi are probably PSG and Manchester City. However, Messi clearly does not need the money, so maybe he would lower his demands for the right challenge?

Possibly the biggest influences on Messi’s decision making will come from within the Camp Nou. Despite Barca’s slow start to the La Liga campaign, they have slowly and quietly hauled themselves back into title contention, and they now have a genuine chance of catching leaders Atlético Madrid. And Messi has been central to this, scoring seventeen times in their seventeen game unbeaten run.

And most crucially, the return of Joan Laporta as club president may have a big influence on whether Messi stays or goes; Laporta has pledged to do everything he can to convince Messi to stay at the Camp Nou.

Nobody knows what Messi will do. But if he was to choose to leave Barcelona for pastures new, no one could begrudge him his move given all that he has done for the club since he arrived there as a thirteen-year-old boy.