Where will Lionel Messi end up — Barcelona, Manchester City or elsewhere?

Staying with Barcelona may be an option for Lionel Messi after all.

A day after the Spanish club reaffirmed its position not to facilitate a transfer, Messi’s father and agent did not dismiss the possibility of his son reconsidering his decision to leave.

Jorge Messi left the prospect open after being briefly questioned by the Cuatro television channel on whether son may stay for now and leave for free when his contract ends next year.

The affirmation came a day after there was no agreement in the first meeting between Jorge Messi and Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu.

Jorge Messi had said, upon arriving in Barcelona on Wednesday, that he saw it “difficult” for his son to keep playing for the famous club.

A man wearing a mask holds his hand up as he stands in front of a camera in an airport.

A man wearing a mask holds his hand up as he stands in front of a camera in an airport.

Lionel Messi’s father Jorge flew into Barcelona this week to speak to club president Josep Bartomeu.(Reuters: Nacho Doce)

Messi tells Barca he wants out

Lionel Messi last week told Barcelona he was invoking a contract clause that allowed him to leave for free at the end of the season, but the club claimed that the clause had expired in June.

Barcelona said it wanted Messi to stay until the end of his contract in June 2021. The contract has a buyout clause of 700 million euros ($1.14 billion).

A Lionel Messi poster and action figure can be seen through a Barcelona team shop window.

A Lionel Messi poster and action figure can be seen through a Barcelona team shop window.

Barcelona has offered Messi a two-year contract extension in hopes of hanging on to the Argentinian superstar.(AP: Emilio Morenatti)

Barcelona said it has offered the Argentine a two-year extension that would keep him with the club through the 2022-23 season.

It also wanted to meet personally with the player to try to convince him to stay and finish his career with the club where he started playing nearly 20 years ago.

Neither party made concessions in Wednesday’s meeting, with Jorge Messi confirming that his son wanted to leave and Barcelona reaffirming that it will not accept his transfer request.

They have not scheduled another round of negotiations, but Barcelona said it still hoped Messi would change his mind about leaving.

Messi has yet to speak publicly since the 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, one of the worst in the player’s career and in the club’s history.

The defeat capped a disappointing season for Barcelona, the first without a trophy since 2007-08.

A La Liga footballer with his back to camera has his head down in disappointment.

A La Liga footballer with his back to camera has his head down in disappointment.

Lionel Messi was devastated by Barcelona’s stunning loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.(AP / Pool: Manu Fernandez)

The 33-year-old Messi had been outspoken against club officials during the season and he hasn’t shown up at the club since the squad returned to training on Monday.

He also skipped the required coronavirus tests the team underwent on Sunday.

Clock counting down to new season

The player’s representatives claim the clause allowing him to leave the club for free should still be valid because the season was pushed back by the coronavirus pandemic.

Barcelona is scheduled to begin its season against Villarreal in the Spanish league at the end of the month.

Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann said the squad didn’t know much about Lionel Messi’s future.

“We are trying to find out what is happening, but it’s an issue between the player and the club,” he said while with the French national team. “We just hope that he stays.”

Real Madrid player Luka Modric said Lionel Messi’s departure would be “a big loss” for the Spanish league but Spanish football would eventually be fine.

“You have to move on,” he said.

What about City? Messi-Guardiola reunion a hot topic

The Barcelona manager leans in to hug his star player on the sidelines during a La Liga game.

The Barcelona manager leans in to hug his star player on the sidelines during a La Liga game.

The prospect of Messi rejoining his former manager Pep Guardiola has made Manchester City the top tip for his destination club.(Reuters: Gustau Nacarino)

Media reports this week have suggested a deal might already be done with Manchester City, giving Messi a number of years at the City of Manchester Stadium before a move to the club’s Major League Soccer franchise New York City FC.

The City Football Group, which owns Manchester City and several other clubs, including New York City and 2020 A-League grand finalists Melbourne City, is majority owned by a group from the United Arab Emirates.

It is one of the few organisations that could potentially be able to afford to trigger Messi’s mammoth release clause.

However, following Jorge Messi’s comments, there are now suggestions from several European news outlets that his son could agree to stay one more season at the Camp Nou before leaving on a free transfer.

This option could allow Messi to say goodbye to the fans, get his move to Manchester and avoid a damaging legal fight.

Whatever happens, until Messi’s future is finally officially decided, discussion about him will continue to be football’s hottest topic.

AP/ABC