There’s no smoke without fire they say. And that’s what I’ve led myself to believe whenever I read a Lionel Messi to Manchester City rumour.
It might sound silly, incomprehensible and outright outrageous. But is it really?
Lionel Messi’s standing at Barcelona is not as secure as it once was. Contract talks have been going on for a long time now and Messi has watched other players like Neymar, Suarez and Iniesta renew their deals before his (which expires in 2018). The Barcelona board’s behaviour towards Messi is also rumoured to be a long-standing issue for the Argentinian. Messi has previously called-out directors out in 2013, and again last year – who he felt didn’t give him the respect he deserved. Both, as you can imagine, were swiftly sacked.
But could he really come to Manchester City? Several outlets have claimed so and apparently there is a belief inside the club that Lionel Messi really could join. Numbers like £100m and £500,000 a week have been thrown around while Leo’s own special relationship with Guardiola and our board has been magnified.
But before anyone starts foaming at their teeth, this is obviously hypothetical and heavily conjectured but I think interesting and fun nonetheless.
So here I take a look at the pro’s and con’s of signing the game’s best ever player.
Lionel Messi is really good
Messi is indisputably the best player in history. He is three greats rolled into one, a phenomenal playmaker, a mesmerising dribbler and one of – if not the best – the greatest goal-scorers of all time. He has carried entire teams on his shoulders throughout his career and has established Barcelona as a goliath of football again. Barca were no way near as big or great before he arrived and the four European Cups and eight La Ligas he won has drastically shifted the balance of power in Spain from Madrid to Catalonia. He has, as many Barcelona fans will tell you, become bigger than his own club.
Lionel Messi will continue to be the best player in the world
I suppose the major concern with signing Lionel Messi is his age. Messi will be 30 this summer and you could argue, like his counter-part Ronaldo has, start to decline. I don’t necessarily agree with that but let’s say for arguments sake he will, because even Messi at 50% is probably a Sergio Aguero level player. He is that far ahead of everyone else. Players like Robert Lewandowski are lauded as one of the finest goal-scorers of their generation, scoring 25+ goals in six consecutive seasons. But look at Messi. He’s averaged 50 goals a season across his last eight years. He’s in a completely different ball-park.
But the truth is that Messi won’t decline drastically. Like all great players, Messi has changed and evolved his game as he got older. Ever since he moved back to right-wing during the 2013/2014 treble-winning season, he’s become the team’s creator and chief controller. He’s reinvented himself as a different kind of a player yet he still continues to have the same drastic effect on his team. Before, he scored 72 goals in one season; now he scores 50 and supplies the other forwards who are sharing a goal-scoring burden he’s held on his shoulders for so many years. He has evolved into the best playmaker in the game and Neymar and Suarez have been provided a service never seen in football. That’s why there’s no reason to think he can’t continue to be devastating, even well into his 30’s.
Guardiola would get even more out of him
Messi and Guardiola have never kept their admiration for each other a secret, even after Pep had departed for pastures new. They were arguably the two most important components of the greatest team the world has ever seen and they propelled each other to unforeseen heights.
It was Pep who had moved Messi to the right-wing and it was Pep who ushered Eto’o and Ibrahimovic out the door so Messi could play as a false #9. Guardiola understands where Messi is most effective better than any other coach and there’s no doubt that he would salivate at the prospect of being able to name Messi in one of his starting line-ups.
Damaging to our academy?
I’m struggling to think of many cons to signing Lionel bloody Messi but one factor does come to mind.
Let’s assume Messi arrives and City continue playing 4-3-3. Leo would understandably take the right-wing position and force whoever else is there to battle out for the left-hand side. Sterling and Sane would give each other a run for their money but one of them will surely spend more time then they’d like on the side-lines. So what chance does that give to the up and coming players? Realistically, Next to none.
Patrick Roberts, Marlos Moreno and even Gabriel Jesus should Pep wish to buy a striker could find their future here threatened. City have invested a lot of money into these players and I’m sure they would find game-time very hard to come by and jet off quicker than you can say “Jesus, what a goal Messi.”
Also, as Messi gets on and starts to find himself playing deeper into midfield, younger talents like Brahim Diaz and Jordan Sancho could find their paths blocked too. He’s going to be a guaranteed name on the team-sheet and will play almost every single game. Signing Lionel Messi will certainly come at the cost of other players.
Conclusion: SIGN (for any amount of money whatsoever)
I mean I guess Messi will stunt the growth of some our kids, possibly end their hopes of having careers at Manchester City and force them to find pastures new, but honestly – who cares? You develop these guys in the hope of them growing into top-class players so when you have the chance to buy not only the fully grown package but a player who’ll they’ll never be anywhere near as good then I think you should take it.
Messi would be a colossal signing, a watershed moment for football and the Premier League. He is a giant of the game, a guy who is possibly better at football than anyone has ever been at anything. He transcends the game and a signing like him is a guaranteed hoard of trophies.
And how about the economic side? Messi is one of the most recognisable faces in the world. He’s a marketing wet dream and his brand, following and influence would bring unparalleled attention to Manchester City and the owner’s project here.
Even if I knew he’d be an abject failure I’d still want him here because of my affection for him. On almost every aspect, I think it would be stupid to not sign Lionel Messi.