Words By Charlie Batten
With the Coronavirus pandemic halting football for a time and preventing fans from stadiums, I think it’s safe to say we were expecting a fairly quiet and uneventful transfer window…, were we wrong?
In my opinion, Lionel Messi is the greatest player to ever kick a ball. Some may say, Maradona, Pele, Best, Ronaldo or the other Ronaldo are the best players ever, but in my opinion, none of them produces the magic that Messi can on a nightly basis.
Growing up in England I didn’t get to watch many of his games as La Liga wasn’t often shown here so I only got to watch him in the World Cup and Champions League which made seeing him play such a special occasion. I’ll always remember his header against Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final and just being in awe of him.
To me Messi was Barcelona and Barcelona was Messi, but now that bond seems to be breaking. After Barcelona’s frankly shocking 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich Messi did the unthinkable, he asked Barcelona to let him go.
To be fair he has done this before, but they’ve always seemed like empty threats with the purpose of them to actually get the Barca higher-ups to give him a new contract. Yet this time it seems different.
Over the last 3 years, Barcelona has been a shadow of their former self. Their football has lost their signature calculated finesse, high profile transfers have failed, poor managerial appointments and unrest in the boardroom. Early exits from the Champions League also haven’t helped with them not making it past the quarter-finals in 4 of the last 5 seasons and the last time they got to the semi’s they squandered a 3-0 aggregate as Liverpool scored 4 goals at Anfield. I think anyone that watched the game against Bayern could see that Messi was frustrated and almost lost in what to do whereas years before he could have single-handedly turned the game around.
It was a few days after this loss that Messi made it clear to the Barca board that he wanted out by submitting a transfer request. In his contract, he has a clause where ten days after the Champions League final he can choose to leave Barcelona and become a free agent. I still can’t really understand why Barcelona would allow Messi to have this clause in his contract, but then again this is the same club that signed injury-prone Thomas Vermaelen who couldn’t even get game time at Arsenal so I don’t have much faith in their recruitment team.
It seemed that as soon as it became public knowledge that Messi wanted out, clubs from all around the world started accessing their financial books to see if they could spare the small fee of about £25 million a year to get him. I think realistically only Manchester City and PSG have the financial power to buy him. Money doesn’t seem to be a problem for these European heavyweights, so they are likely more than prepared to pay Messi in excess of £30 million a year to secure his signature.
Many fans are hoping Juventus could sign him so we can finally see Ronaldo and Messi at the same time, but I suspect these fans have forgotten Juventus are already paying Ronaldo £28 million a year so perhaps they’re just a little strapped for cash.
If he does leave, I think the most likely destination, and his best option is to go to City. There he can link up with not only his childhood friend Sergio Aguero but also work with Pep Guardiola again, who he played his best football under. If he came to England we could finally answer the age-old question, can he do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke? Although considering Stoke are still in the Championship we might have to settle for seeing what he can do at West Brom.
His decision depends a lot on if he wants to challenge for high profile trophies like the Premier League or earn lots and lots of money while playing for PSG.
Even though Messi has requested a transfer, Barcelona is not making this an easy divorce, and are likely to challenge this, suggesting that the700 million euro release fee still applies.No team wants to lose what in my option is their greatest ever player to another team, but they certainly aren’t helping their relationship.
Messi is relying on the clause in his contract that lets him leave 10 days after the Champions League final, but this date was not changed after the final got pushed back due to the halting of all sports events. Lionel and his lawyers are arguing that the club should accept his decision as no one could account for the viruses impact on football, However, the club is saying he missed his opportunity and if another club wants to buy him before his contract expires next season they’ll have to cough up £625 million to get him. As of the 31 August Messi has not returned to training and reportedly does not view himself as part of Koeman’s Barca squad. I think this will play out up until the last day of the transfer window and if he doesn’t go I genuinely believe he will refuse to play. I can’t think of a time that such a huge star has done something like this and I still think so much more could happen over the coming weeks.