Lionel Messi swapped the penalty box for the ballot box as he was seen casting his vote in the Barcelona presidential elections on Sunday – an event which could determine whether the star remains at the Catalan club.
Messi, 33, was filmed alongside his son Thiago as he made his vote at the Camp Nou on Sunday morning.
The previous evening, the Argentine had helped Barca to a 2-0 win at Osasuna which cut the gap at the top of La Liga to two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.
According to Spanish outlet Marca, it was the first time Messi has turned out to cast his vote at a Barcelona presidential election, although his choice was not revealed.
Barcelona club members are choosing between three candidates in the final vote: Joan Laporta, Victor Font, and Toni Freixa.
Laporta is the favorite, having previously held the post between 2003 and 2010 in a period during which Pep Guardiola was named manager, heralding a golden era for the Catalans.
The previous incumbent, Josep Maria Bartomeu, resigned in disgrace in October amid the bitter fallout over Messi’s bid to leave the club before the start of the season.
The current vote could be a large factor in determining whether the six-time Ballon d’Or winner remains at Barcelona beyond the end of his contract this coming summer, and the Argentine is said to enjoy good relations with Laporta.
However, a victory for Laporta would be no guarantee that Messi remains as the 33-year-old seeks further silverware in the twilight years of his career. The likes of French champions PSG and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are already said to be circling, ready to lure Messi away in the summer.
As of Sunday, more than 20,000 mail ballots had already been cast in the vote. The polls will close at 21:00 local time, with the result expected before midnight. The club boasts an overall electorate of more than 110,000.
Messi’s teammates Sergio Busquets, Riqui Puig, Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba have also voted.
The decision for the new Blaugrana president comes with Barcelona mired in one of their deepest ever crises.
Lumbered with a reported debt of more than €1 billion, the club last week saw several prominent figures – including former chief Bartomeu – arrested as part of an investigation into alleged misuse of funds and corruption.