Lionel Messi might be pondering the unthinkable: leaving FC Barcelona.

That soccer superstar rejected Barcelona’s contract offer in July, Marca reported Monday, citing unnamed sources. Messi’s current deal expires in 2018, and he’ll consider all of his options until then, according to the Spanish newspaper.

Marca claims Messi’s conviction on tax fraud charges has prompted him to think about playing in another country. World soccer’s leading clubs (and those with plenty of money) would do whatever it takes over the next 18 months to sign one of the sport’s all-time greats. Messi will be 32 when the 2018-19 season starts and undoubtedly still is among the top players in the world.

This Messi rumor would be a bombshell if true, as he has said throughout his career that he’d never play for another European club.

But we also must receive Marca’s news with considerable skepticism. Many believe Marca is closely aligned with Real Madrid, Barcelona’s eternal rival, and the Messi story could be a ploy aimed at destabilizing the reigning La Liga (Spanish first division) champion.

In fact, ESPN reported Monday that Barcelona-based newspaper Sport and Argentinian newsper Ole both have challenged Marca’s story, claiming Messi and Barcelona plan to hold talks over a new contract next month.

If Messi and Barcelona don’t agree to fresh terms, the soccer world must prepare itself for a possible transfer that would shift the balance of power among Europe’s top clubs.

Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images