The world will be watching Lionel Messi's next steps.
CNN  — 

After helping Paris Saint-Germain win its 11th Ligue 1 title at the weekend, Lionel Messi has some thinking to do.

With his contract at the Parisian club coming to an end in June and his relationship with the club seemingly at a breaking point, there is much speculation around where the Argentine will be playing his football next season.

In a recent interview with CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies, Messi said he would continue playing while he’s still enjoying it and, at 35, he certainly has a few more years to give.

Less than six months ago he was awarded the Golden Ball at the World Cup – the prize given to the best player in the tournament – and has scored 16 goals and provided 16 assists in this season’s league campaign.

Amid rumors of a lucrative deal to the Middle East and reports linking him with a move back to his beloved Barcelona, CNN Sport explores the different directions he could turn to as he approaches the twilight of his career.

What went wrong at PSG?

Messi arrived in the French capital to much fanfare. He was to be the missing piece in the puzzle; the man to drive the team to its first ever Champions League trophy.

While Messi struggled with injury during his first season in Paris, he still managed to show flashes of his brilliance.

He helped the team win yet another Ligue 1 title, but PSG ultimately failed in the Champions League, being beaten by eventual champion Real Madrid in the round of 16.

His second season started much better and his link up play with the likes of Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappé was the envy of teams around the world.

Messi's relationship with PSG has become strained in recent months.

But after his mesmerizing performances in winning the World Cup for Argentina in December 2022, he returned to yet more struggles on a domestic level.

In March, PSG was dumped out of the Champions League yet again in the round of 16 – this time by Bayern Munich.

It sparked a bitter end of the season and Messi was one of a number of star players to receive a hostile reaction from fans later that month.

Messi was then suspended for two weeks after leaving France to attend promotional events in Saudi Arabia; the unauthorized trip meant that he missed a training session.

Despite another title victory, a move to a new club looks more than likely.

The big question, though, is where?

Barcelona return?

The Catalan club is where Messi turned from school boy to sporting legend.

At 17 years old, he made his first of 778 appearances for the Blaugrana, becoming the youngest player to represent the club in an official game at the time.

He went on to break the club’s goalscoring record and won 35 trophies during his time at the Camp Nou – including 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.

His emotional departure was fueled by the club’s dire financial state in 2021 and Messi was in tears as he said goodbye in his final press conference.

Under new coach and club legend Xavi, Barcelona has just won its first La Liga title in four years this year, with the club starting to look more competitive.

“For me, there’s no doubt that if Messi comes back, he will help us on a football level,” Xavi told Barcelona-based newspaper SPORT in a recent interview.

“I let the president [Joan Laporta] know this. I have no doubts, no doubt at all that he will help because he is still a decisive footballer, because he still has hunger, because he’s a winner, because he’s a leader and because, also, he’s a different, different player,” added Xavi, who told SPORT that he still talks to Messi.

“We don’t have a Barça on a talent level like 2010, for example. And what would Messi bring? He’d bring talent. Final pass, set pieces, goals … in the final third, he’s a player on a different level.

“As such, and because of the way I want to play, the way the staff wants to play too, for me there’s no doubt that he would help us a lot, but it all depends on him. In the end, the one who calls the shots at this time is Leo. There’s no doubt.”

Journalist Marcela Mora y Araujo, who is an expert on Argentine football, told CNN Sport that while a move to Barcelona would be a “fitting end” to his career, the transfer surely remains somewhat of a “fantasy” given the club is still strapped for cash.

“To end his playing days in his football home is quite romantic,” she said.

“The Barcelona temptation would be much more to do, perhaps, with his family. His kids were born there.

“The lifestyles of footballers’ children are often like kids of diplomats, where they spend a lot of their young lives traveling around the world and then, maybe in their late teens, they have a say and want to be somewhere where they’re happy and comfortable and have a good life. Saudi Arabia might be weird in that respect.

“I think that side – family life, daily life, diet, friends, language – then Barcelona would win. No question.”