Why Lionel Messi’s future may not lie in Europe after all

Lionel Messi has been at Barcelona for just over 16 years, but could be on his way out of Europe before his career is up.

Since joining Barcelona in 2000, Messi has scored just shy of 500 first-team goals in just over 500 appearances. Yet rumours of a transfer away from Camp Nou are seemingly ever present in the Argentine captain’s career, though all of these rumours are quickly brushed aside by both Barca and Messi himself.

However, one club may be enough to tempt him away.

Forget about the allure of reuniting with former manager Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. Ignore the big money offers that will surely come in from China. The biggest temptation for  Messi may just be the club that he first called home, Newell’s Old Boys.

Based in his home town of Rosario; Newell’s Old Boys signed Messi at just six years old and he quickly found success, scoring over 500 goals in six years playing for Newell’s famous “Machine of ‘87” youth team, named after the year of the player’s birth.

After impressing in his Barcelona trial in September of 2000, Barca director Charly Rexach immediately wanted to sign the 13-year-old and offered Messi his first contract in December of 2000, on a paper napkin due to a lack of paper.

But why would Messi move from the glamour of European football, playing in competitions such as La Liga and the Champions League, to the comparatively modest Primera División?

The answer may just be passion.

Messi is a lifelong Old Boys fan and has expressed his desire to return to the club before he retires.

“I would love to [return],” Messi told Argentinian television station Telefe last September, as translated by “It is something I have kept an eye on because it was my dream as a child.”

“I want to play in Argentine football and Newell’s, where I grew up.” He added.

Newell’s themselves have also added fuel to the fire, club vice president Cristian D’Amaco stating: “I think we’re going to get the pleasure of Messi wearing the shirt,” in an interview with FourFourTwo in August of 2016.

So, could arguably the greatest player of all time find himself playing in front of the rampant Newell’s fans inside ‘El Coloso’ before the end of his great career? Chances seem high.

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