Barcelona shook the foundations of the footballing world when they confirmed on Thursday evening that Lionel Messi will be leaving the club this summer.
The Argentine star has spent his entire senior career at the La Liga club after joining their famed La Masia academy when he was just 13.
Since then, Messi has established himself as one of the greatest players of all time, winning the Ballon d’Or six times, the Champions League four times, and most recently, a Copa America with his country.
But as his exit looms, how has it come to this, and what next for the iconic talent?
We’ve gathered all the information you need to know below…
Why is Messi leaving Barcelona?
According to Barclona themselves, it’s predominantly La Liga’s fault.
Technically speaking, Messi has been a free agent since his previous contract expired on July 1st.
The expectation was, however, that he would eventually pen a new deal with the club, and the two parties even reached an agreement that would see the player extend his stay at Camp Nou until 2026 on heavily reduced wages.
But that contract ultimately depended on Barcelona being able to sell other members of their squad – something they have not been able to do.
Despite being one of the biggest clubs in the world, the Catalan side have been hit hard by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this year, the club’s presidential election was even held against the backdrop of potential bankruptcy at Camp Nou.
The real issue, from the club’s perspective at least, is that La Liga are not willing to be flexible with their rules on salary limits.
That means that even though both Messi and the club seemed willing to agree to a contract extension, the governing body have ruled it out, unless Barca can find a way of freeing up space on their wage bill.
How much does Messi get paid per week?
Of course, this is not the first time that Messi has looked destined to leave Barcelona.
Last summer, the talisman sent a fax to Barcelona bosses stating that he wished to exercise a clause in his contract that would have allowed him to leave for free.
The club dug their heels in, however, and days later Messi said that he would stay, admitting it was "impossible" for any team to pay the £624 million release clause written into his contract.
But that clause wasn’t the only thing complicating his exit.
It is understood that Messi’s last contract at Barca netted him a weekly wage of around £438,000 per week.
The deal in principle he agreed at Camp Nou earlier this year would have slashed that figure by roughly half, but it remains to be seen whether he would be as willing to be so flexible in his demands with any other potential suitors.
Where will Messi go next?
This is the proverbial million dollar question, isn’t it?
A couple of years ago, the prospect of Messi ever leaving Barcelona would have been denounced as lunacy, but here we are on the brink of one of the biggest transfers in footballing history.
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of reported suitors for the Argentine.
According to Betfair, the strong favourites to land Messi are PSG. The French giants are priced at 10/11 at the time of writing, and with plenty of financial might and several South American stars already on their books, it’s understandable that they are being touted so heavily.
Also in the running are Manchester City, priced at 21/10. The Premier League Champions are managed by Messi’s old mentor Pep Guardiola, and a reunion would certainly be a romantic prospect.
Whether City would be able to afford the icon after just forking out £100 million on Jack Grealish remains to be seen, however.
Other options include a resolution to his plight at Barcelona (10/3), a lucrative move to the MLS (11/1), a switch to Italy with Inter Milan (12/1), or a sensational swoop from Manchester United (18/1).
Perhaps the most alluring muttering comes in the form of a 20/1 outside chance that Messi could return to where it all began with a transfer to boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys back in his home country.
Only time will tell in a saga that promises to dominate headlines for the remainder of the summer, whatever its outcome.