by Paul Kennedy

Barcelona, the only club Lionel Messi has ever played for, announced on Thursday that the Argentine star would not be returning for the new season, which begins Aug. 15.

Messi, 34, was a free agent and agreed to a new contract with Barca, but LaLiga would not accept the contract because it violated its financial regulations. Attempts at revising the agreement apparently failed.

In a statement, Barcelona said the “clear intention of both parties” was for Messi to stay.

Because of the depressed transfer market, Barcelona has been unable to sell players whose salaries it was seeking to unload. It has been also seeking to reach an agreement on salary cuts for other players.

One of the players who appears to be staying is Sergino Dest. Fellow American Konrad de la Fuente (sold to Marseille) was one of the few players Barca has transferred.

The irony is that in 2020 Messi wanted to leave but Barca wouldn't budge on the transfer fee and his effort to get out the contract failed in the courts.

Another irony: One of the few signings for the 2021-22 season was Argentine Sergio Aguero, one of Messi's best friends with whom he had been vacationing. Barring a turn of events, Aguero will be playing for Barca without Messi.

It all begs the question: where will Messi move? Manchester City was considered his likely destination last summer. Less so now. Paris St. Germain, another state sovereign club, has also been mentioned as a possible new home for the Argentine star.

In April, Messi won his 35th trophy with Barcelona when it captured the Copa del Rey with a 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. He has won 10 La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions Leagues trophies with Barcelona. His six Ballons d'Or are a record.

Messi was 13 when he left his home in Rosario, Argentina, to enter the Barcelona academy, La Masia.