LIONEL MESSI will leave Barcelona next summer, predicts Barcelona legend Rivaldo, amid speculation linking him to Manchester City.
The world-class Argentine failed to force his way out of the club in the last transfer window, but many believe he will finally get his wish next year when his contract runs out, with Man City positioned as favourites.
Rivaldo is one of those who believes this will be Messi's last season at the Nou Camp and he thinks the star will have his pick of clubs.
He wrote in his Betfair column: "Reaching an agreement to renew Messi's contract is going to be tough with a reduced margin to increase his salary.
"Of course, Messi will have better offers from other clubs, and was already trying to leave the club by the end of last season. I can't see how our board will convince him to move back on that decision.
"In my opinion, only winning the Champions League or LaLiga this season or having [Ronald] Koeman getting the team playing beautiful football can convince Messi to reconsider his options.
"Unfortunately, I'm afraid this will be his last season with the club."
Messi's public attempt to free himself from Barcelona was the biggest football story of the summer.
The 33-year-old has spent his entire footballing career at the Catalan club but was adamant about leaving following their Champions League humiliation in August.
He believed he was free from his £629million release clause but the club challenged this and dug in for a bitter legal row before the forward eventually had to give in.
REUNITED WITH PEP?
Messi is still strongly linked with reuniting with Guardiola, who he won two Champions Leagues under, and the Spanish coach signing a new contract at the Etihad has added fuel to the fire.
SunSport reveaked the Manchester club are ready to swoop in and get him as soon as January.
With Barcelona financially struggling, officials at the Etihad are confident they can land him in a cut-price deal, with the Spanish side determined to get some fee.
Messi, who has scored 640 goals in 741 games for Barca, has struggled to produce his sparkling best this season under new boss Ronald Koeman.
But his Dutch manager insists the club still need his presence.
He told Sport earlier this month: "Messi's shown that he's an ambitious person.
"He has demonstrated to me that he's a person that wants to win things, be the best and continue being the best, even though he's had his problems with the club.
"I want the best for the team. And the best for the team is that Leo is good, as he is now, motivated and involved.
"The team has to learn to look for the best for the team, but right now, Barça have been, are and will be a better team with Messi than without Messi."
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