Lionel Messi has been mesmerising football fans for nearly two decades and the Barcelona talisman is approaching the final stages of his playing days.
Retirement has been playing on the Argentina captain’s mind, something he made public when collecting his sixth Ballon d’Or in December 2019.
He has passed the milestone of 30 and, while he evidently takes exceptional care of his body, time waits for no one.
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So what will happen when Messi finally retires from playing? Goal takes a look at what lies ahead for the Argentine.
Messi admitted that “retirement is approaching” in his 2019 Ballon d’Or acceptance speech, but there has been little indication from him as to what he might do when he hangs his boots up for good.
However, it seems likely that he will remain involved in football in one form or another – even if that isn’t at Barcelona.
“I’m aware of how old I am,” said the Rosario native after being awarded the Ballon d’Or by France Football in 2019. “And I enjoy these moments so much because I know that retirement is approaching. Time flies.”
Messi added: “I hope, God willing, that I keep playing for many more years. I’m now 32, though, and will be 33 at the end of the season, so, as I said, everything depends on how I feel physically.
“Right now I feel better than ever on a physical and a personal level, and I hope I can go on for a lot longer.”
As former Barca and Brazil star Rivaldo noted, however, Messi has his heart set on Copa America and World Cup triumphs, so it will probably be a few years at least before he calls it a day.
Will Lionel Messi become a coach or manager?
It is possible that Messi will explore his options as a coach when he retires from playing, particularly considering his evolved role in the Barcelona dressing room since becoming team captain at Camp Nou.
Indeed, at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a narrative emerged that Messi was regularly consulted by then-Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli about certain tactical decisions, such as whether or not to put Sergio Aguero into the game against Nigeria.
The in-house Barca documentary ‘Matchday’ gives further insight into Messi’s influence on the team as he contributes bite-size instructions to his team-mates to complement the coach’s team talks.
While these are fairly normal actions of a senior player and captain, they nonetheless give the impression of a player with a keen understanding of and investment in the tactical side of the game.
Focus on business interests & endorsement deals
Given his status as one of the biggest sports stars in the world and one of the greatest footballers of all-time, Messi will continue to have an appeal to potential business partners.
Unlike Cristiano Ronaldo, who began work on building a business portfolio early in his career with a variety of pursuits, Messi’s ventures have not been as high profile – no underwear range, hotels and so on.
However, he might be tempted into diversifying his interests when the final lucrative contract of his playing days comes to an end.
Messi, of course, is a key ambassador for the likes of Adidas and Pepsi among other brands, and he will probably continue serving as the face of their products for a while – similar to how David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane are rolled out to promote the latest line of football boots, or how Eric Cantona continues to work with Nike.
Could Lionel Messi become a pundit?
One common path tread by former footballers wishing to stay close to the game is to transition into the role of football pundit.
Admittedly, it would be unusual to see Messi acting as a pundit in a television studio running the rule over Barcelona or Real Madrid, given his seemingly quiet public persona, but stranger things have happened.
There is no shortage of ex-players prepared to give their opinions on the game, but Messi would move to the top of the queue by sheer dint of his status as one of the all-time greats.
In fact, Messi’s reserved demeanour disguises a character with plenty of strong views on how the game should be played.
Will Lionel Messi move back to Argentina?
Messi has long expressed a desire to return to Argentina to conclude his playing days where they started – with Newell’s Old Boys in Rosario.
However, he has conceded that it may be more difficult to achieve because it means he would have to relocate his family across the Atlantic from Barcelona.
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“It’s a dream I’ve had since I was little,” said Messi. “But I have a family, I have three children, I live in a place that has given me everything and where I am calm and can give my children a spectacular future.
“We think much more about that than my desire of playing football in Argentina. I will try to convince the family, because today we have to convince the children too.”
When he stops playing and his children grow up though, the dream of returning home could yet be fulfilled.
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