The 2022/23 European footballing year has been nothing short of incredible. We haven’t been short of intriguing plot lines which twisted one way and then the other throughout the course of the campaign. But now the curtain is coming down and the sun is setting on another season.
Across the continent, there have been title races aplenty. In England, an upstart Arsenal side led by Mikel Arteta gave Manchester City all they could handle in a Premier League title race for the ages. In Germany, Bayern Munich took full advantage of a Borussia Dortmund final-day capitulation to claim their 11th straight Bundesliga title. We even had a title race of sorts in France with Lens pushing a disappointing Paris Saint-Germain side all the way in Ligue 1.
Eventually, it was the side from the French capital that claimed a record-breaking 11th title. However, their season has underwhelmed by their lofty standards, and the Parc De Princes faithful have let the players know of their unhappiness in no uncertain terms, so much so that it has forced the greatest football player that has ever lived, Lionel Messi, to leave the club. And he could be set for a return home this summer.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the “Boy from Rosario” and one other huge transfer which could happen this summer.
Ivan Toney: Brentford > Chelsea
Current England international striker Ivan Toney loves to gamble, and that has landed him in hot water with the English FA. The Brentford hitman has been handed an eight-month ban by the country’s football governing body for breaching betting regulations. He can find some solace in amusing online table games during his lengthy stint on the sidelines, and despite his ban, he could still be on the move this summer.
Chelsea, who have had a disastrous campaign by their lofty standards, don’t seem to be deterred by the 27-year-old’s ban. The West London outfit has been linked with a move for Toney all season long, and following the club’s £300m spending spree in January, it seems that Todd Boehly’s checkbook still remains wide open. Mauricio Pochettino has been appointed as the new manager at Stamford Bridge in recent days, and his first order of business could be bringing in the talented Englishman, who has netted 20 times in an impressive Premier League season for both him and his Brentford team.
Lionel Messi: Paris Saint-Germain > FC Barcelona
Last December, Lionel Messi climbed his final peak, as Peter Drury so aptly put it, when he led Argentina to their first FIFA World Cup success in almost four decades. While his international career has never been better, it’s safe to say that the diminutive playmaker’s two-year stint at Paris Saint-Germain has been a disaster. It was clear that the 36-year-old never wanted to leave Barcelona in the summer of 2021, but the club’s dire financial situation meant that there was no way in which he could remain in Catalonia.
When Messi arrived in Paris, he had one job and one job only, securing a maiden UEFA Champions League crown for the oil-rich club. And in that task, he has failed spectacularly. Back-to-back exits at the Round of Sixteen stage have seen the fans at the Parc De Princes get on his back, as well as the backs of his strike partners Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. The backlash has been so bad that the Parisians have confirmed that Messi will leave the club on a free transfer this summer and that his contract will not be renewed.
That has led many to speculate that the two-time World Cup Golden Ball winner could be set to return home to Barcelona. The financial situation at the Camp Nou has improved somewhat over the last 24 months and last year, the Catalonians managed to stump up €100m to secure the signatures of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, and Jules Koundé. With Messi not requiring a transfer fee this summer, many are wondering whether Xavi and the powers that be within the club can find the required funds to afford Messi’s extortionate wage demands.
One problem that Barca may have is that a number of teams in the Saudi Professional League are also vying for his signature and thus enhancing the league’s reputation even further. Cristiano Ronaldo famously signed a £200m per year dear with Al-Nassr earlier in the campaign, and should Messi join him in the Arabian Gulf this summer, the pair would renew their legendary rivalry and lock horns once more. But at the age of 36, the allure of one final shot at the Champions League with his beloved Barcelona may mean more to him than a bucket load of cash, and the Catalonians remain one of the contenders to bring their greatest ever player back home this summer.