Rumor and speculation currently surround the future of Lionel Messi, who increasingly seems ready to walk away from a lucrative contract renewal at Paris Saint-Germain. Shaping that decision could be his great friend Sergio Busquets, who is also weighing up whether to stay in LaLiga or head for an American adventure in MLS.
Best buddies and former colleagues, neither distance nor playing for different teams has reduced the bonds between Messi, 35, and Busquets, 34, who both rose to fame and prominence via the fabled Barcelona talent production line of La Masia.
And in the coming months, this bond could shape where both of these storied players decide to continue their professional careers. French sports media heavyweight L’Equipe believes the future of Messi is more uncertain than ever at PSG, despite the desires of club owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who apparently wants to keep the Argentina star. For his part, Messi seems dubious about transfer planning at the Parisian club.
Meanwhile, southwards and across the border between France and Spain, another prominent soccer star is weighing up his own future plans. Barcelona would like to extend the contract of Busquets for at least another year, albeit with a greatly reduced salary package compared to his current deal, which expires at the end of June.
Just ahead of participating in his final World Cup tournament in Qatar, Busquets dropped an important hint about his future plans. “I’ve always said that I like the United States, especially Miami,” he told radio station Cadena SER, during a live interview. This comment arose amidst reports in Spain, claiming Busquets had already held talks with Inter Miami and MLS.
“But I haven’t yet reached any agreement with any club, nor with any other leagues,” said Busquets, who had indicated he planned to announce his decision by the end of February this year. Now heading towards April and with Barcelona waving their proposals before his eyes, Busquets still hasn’t declared his final intentions.
Numbers that could sway Busquets to stay at Barcelona
Quite the rarity in the modern game, given that professional soccer players increasingly switch clubs throughout their careers, Sergio Busquets is a one-club-man who has spent the entirety of his career with F.C. Barcelona. Whether this remains the case, only the Spaniard himself will ultimately decide, albeit with some intriguing influences to consider.
Upon his emergence from the famous La Masia youth academy, following an excellent 2007-08 campaign with the B team, Busquets was promoted straight into the first team squad for the 2008-09 season. Since then, over the course of the following 15 seasons, Busquets has made 738 appearances in all competitions for Barcelona.
Only two players have played in more official games, throughout the club’s history dating all the way back to its foundation in 1899. Topping the list is Messi, who set the benchmark with 778 total appearances between 2004 and 2021.
Second is current Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez, who made 767 appearances between 1998 and 2015, before deciding to end his playing career with Al Sadd in Qatar. Should he decide to stay put for more than another season, Busquets could feasibly target the milestones for appearances established by Xavi and Messi.
Another target for the midfield organizer would inevitably be focused on winning trophies. Busquets has won 31 titles with Barcelona, including the Supercopa de España this year. That number could rise to 33 by the end of the current 2022-23 season, providing his team wins the Spanish double of LaLiga and the Copa del Rey.
Unsurprisingly, the benchmark for trophy wins at Barcelona has been set by Messi, who claimed the impressive haul of 35 titles with the Blaugrana team. Should he decide to stay with Barcelona for just one more campaign, Busquets could quite conceivably match this total, and possibly set a new milestone for individual trophy success.
Busquets’ MLS decision may revolve entirely around Messi
Given his the exceptional professionalism Busquets has demonstrated throughout his career, the vastly experienced midfielder will undoubtedly be tempted by the idea of breaking club records at Barcelona, should he choose to remain with the Spanish side. However, important friendships may also contribute towards the final decisions he makes.
Seemingly destined to leave Paris Saint-Germain in the summer when his contract with the French club expires, Messi has already been linked with two possible options. The first and possibly preferred option would be returning to Barcelona, although ongoing financial struggles appear to make this prospect highly unlikely.
Unless there is any willingness for Messi to reduce his wage demands, and massively so compared to his current earnings, any chances of moving back to Barcelona would seem both practically and economically impossible. But how do any choices made by the soccer icon, potentially shape any contract renewal decision for Busquets? We could also turn the tables and pose the same question in reverse.
There’s no secret about MLS hoping to lure Messi to American shores, particularly those of the South Beach variety, as Inter Miami plot their own moves for the World Cup winner. Furthermore, the franchise co-owned by David Beckham is also interested in coaxing Busquets to the cause, fully aware that both players and their families enjoy the mutual bond of established friendship.
This friendship could shape the destiny of both families, according to Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo, who believe that Busquets is currently waiting to see what Messi decides to do, before committing his own future to Barcelona. If the Argentina ace somehow returns to Barcelona in the summer, Busquets will have no hesitation in penning a new deal.
But if Messi chooses an American adventure instead, then it most certainly appears that Busquets will happily tag along for the ride, keen to become teammates once again. This additional consideration certainly adds extra flavor to the speculation, which seems to be spinning endlessly around these two dynamic players. And if they both arrive at Inter Miami, this would be an incredible capture for the MLS.
Heath Chesters covers international soccer for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @HeathGCF