Paris Saint-Germain unveiled their new home kit for the 2023-24 season on Tuesday, and while the retro-inspired design is certain to delight fans, the choice of the player to model the jersey set tongues wagging.
Messi's former side Barcelona, Major League Soccer's Inter Miami and Saudi Pro League club Al Hilal have all been touted as possible destinations amid growing speculation that his brief sojourn in France would be coming to an end when his PSG contract expires at the end of June.
In fact, according to L'Equipe, Inter Miami and Barca have joined forces in an unexpected collaboration to thwart Al Hilal's proposed signing of Messi. The partnership between the two clubs reportedly proposes that the MLS side sign Messi before immediately loaning him to Barcelona, allowing him to play one final season for the his beloved Blaugrana before heading off for an international swansong with Argentina at the 2024 Copa America, which will be hosted in the United States.
The 35-year-old stoked the flames himself on Sunday when he decided to miss Ligue 1's end-of-season awards gala in favour of attending a Coldplay concert back in Barcelona, the city he has called home for most of his life, with family and friends, including former teammate Cesc Fabregas.
And on Wednesday, just a day after Messi appeared modelling the 2023-24 jersey, PSG coach Christophe Galtier confirmed that the seven-time Ballon d'Or-winner will not be playing in it next season.
"I had the privilege of coaching the best player in the history of football," Galter told a news conference ahead of PSG's final Ligue 1 match of the season against Clermont Foot. "This will be his last match at the Parc des Princes, and I hope that he will receive the warmest of welcomes."
Fellow superstar Kylian Mbappe has already set restless minds at ease by confirming his intention to stay put at PSG into the 2023-24 campaign, though Neymar -- a close personal friend of Messi -- is open to leaving the club this summer should a suitably enticing offer crop up.
As for the 2023-24 home kit itself, the shirt is an homage to the PSG jerseys of the early 2000s, when a new wave of exciting foreign players such as Ronaldinho, Pauleta, Mauricio Pochettino and Gabriel Heinze helped deliver the 2003-04 Coupe de France, the club's first major honour since the mid-1990s.
The familiar dark blue bed is emblazoned with a wide, offset vertical version of the famous "Hechter" stripe similar to those used to adorn every PSG home shirt between 2001-02 and 2004-05, before the central band was reintroduced.
The tonal graphics woven into the navy background coupled with the fading gradient of the white accents are intended to represent the architecture of the local Paris skyline once shrouded by night.