Lionel Messi left the Ballon d'Or ceremony without the prize, and collecting a copy of Fifa's magazine on the way out might have been worthwhile if he needs to convince Barcelona of his value. "Barcelona would scarcely have become the gold standard in European football without Lionel Messi's 400 goals," muses Fifa president Sepp Blatter. That will hardly make up for seeing Cristiano Ronaldo collect the Ballon D'Or for the second successive year. With commercial strategies now as scrutinised as coaches' tactics, the perception is that Real Madrid were more active lobbying for Ronaldo than Barcelona were for Messi. For any club thinking of buying Messi, there would be some eye-watering numbers to consider Daniel Geey He hardly gave the impression of being a loyal Barcelona employee in Zurich. Rather than responding to the inevitable question about his future with the usual declaration of loyalty, he said, "I am not sure where I will be next year. "Nobody knows what the future holds. Much less in the case of the football world, where so many things can change overnight." That is particularly true when Messi's relationship with the board and coach Luis Enrique is reputed to be far from harmonious. "He's not as straightforward as he used to be," said Esteve Calzada, former Barcelona chief marketing and commercial officer. "He would say, 'Barcelona is my own team. I will retire here.' Something went wrong ... he's older, maybe prepared to listen to other things. "I find it difficult to believe he will spend his whole career at Barcelona." The all-time top scorer in the Champions League is undoubtedly coveted, but when you are the most talented player alongside Ronaldo your freedom of movement is limited. There are the four years remaining on his contract and a €250 million (HK$2.29 billion) buyout clause. Then factor in Messi's ability to command an annual gross salary of €50 million. A club could need the ability to cover €500 million over five years to fund the signing of the 27-year-old forward - a potential cost on the balance sheets of €100 million a season. In European football, that is far tougher with clubs' losses restricted under Financial Fair Play regulations. English clubs have the edge potentially because of the wealth generated from Premier League and Champions League television revenue. "For any club thinking of buying Messi, there would be some eye-watering numbers to consider," said sports lawyer Daniel Geey of London-based Fieldfisher. "There are only a few clubs that have such deep pockets. "Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain with their Uefa-imposed FFP spending restrictions would be hard placed to finance such a transfer, yet it may not be beyond the realms of possibility for Chelsea, Manchester United or Bayern Munich to finance such a deal through profits made, selling existing players or finding additional revenue streams." Why would Barcelona contemplate selling Messi? Particularly when the end of the season sees early presidential elections at the fan-owned team. And any fee received could not be reinvested until 2016 due to a ban on any transfers imposed by Fifa. "For the current board, it would not be good for them to go to the election with the fact they would be selling the best player in the club's history," Calzada said. "And what would they do with the money?" In the absence of the usual campaign pledges to sign players, extending his contract could become an election tool. "We all think that Messi will be at Barcelona for years to come, that is what all fans want," Enrique said. "We don't contemplate a squad without Messi." One day that will come. Whether at the end of his career or when Barcelona cash in on his brilliance might not become clear for a few more years. "Barcelona is a very demanding environment," said Calzada, chief executive of London-based Prime Time Sport, which represents players and advises clubs. "His type of play is based on speed. As he will get older, he will not always be the best player in the world."