25th August 2020, will go down in infamy as the day when Lionel Messi, captain of FC Barcelona formally announced his wish to leave the club. As seismic as the news was, it was far from a thunderbolt shooting out of a blue sky.
Reports had been circulating around for close to a year now, ever since it emerged that the Argentine had a clause in his contract permitting him to leave at the end of the season if he so wished.
A tumultuous campaign at the Camp Nou, which ended with Barcelona trophy-less did little to dismiss the talk. Despite Messi himself having a characteristically good, if unspectacular season by his standards, it does finally seem like the relationship between the club and its greatest player ever has reached its epilogue.
Of course, he could well end up staying since Barcelona have the right to reject the request. Furthermore, the 10th June deadline in the contract, allowing him to walk away for free has long passed, strengthening the club’s position in what could turn out to be a legal saga.
Nevertheless, Lionel Messi has made his desire to leave official. He wants out. Make no mistake, a 33-year-old Messi is still the best player in the world and is quite obviously not short of suitors. Literally, all the world’s biggest clubs from PSG in France to Juventus and Inter Milan in Italy, newly crowned European kings Bayern Munich, Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea as well as both Manchester clubs have been linked with a blockbuster move for the forward.
Talk is cheap, though and it must be noted that most of these super clubs, though big in stature, simply cannot afford the wages he commands even if they were somehow able to entice him on a free transfer.
Statistically or Stylistically? and financially speaking, Manchester City would be the best fit for the six-time Balon D’Or winner. The reasons are obvious. Pep Guardiola, and the deep pockets of Sheikh Mansour, including the presence of former Barca executives Txixi Begiristain and Ferran Soriano.
City’s crosstown rivals, Manchester United also find themselves in the conversation for a gargantuan move for the forward. A combination of historical sporting success and shrewd branding has turned it into a global juggernaut with tens of sponsors, making it one the wealthiest sporting entities world over.
The rumour mill, therefore wasted no time linking the two together. But would the move necessarily be a wise one? I am highly doubtful. It is almost a sure deal that the current United team would underwhelm, even with Messi.
Lionel Messi moving to either Manchester City or United may be possible, though the Blues have deeper pockets
We most likely would see scenes akin to the confoundment when Alexis Sanchez arrived with much fanfare only to score five goals across an absolutely torrid one and a half years. The result would be more ammunition for Messi’s detractors, who accuse him of being a system player (Fergie 👀).
The argument here is that Manchester United for all its glitz and glamour, simply do not yet have the playing infrastructure required to achieve any tangible achievements in the shape of silverware. They might be in the midst of a rebuild, but you do not put a gold plated roof (Messi) on a house barely above foundation level.
Some would argue that signing Messi would accelerate United’s rebuild but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, it would slow it down. Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s project is one based heavily on pace, in a league reputed for its blitzing tempo.
Now, Messi is still very fast in his own right but at 33, there can’t be that many years left until his body takes the natural course of action and begins to slow down. One of the main reasons why Man United have failed to recover from their post-Fergie slump is the prioritization of superstars over players who fit the club.
A move for the Argentine would make headlines but I simply cannot see how it would make any sporting sense. For the sake of Messi’s reputation, as well as Man United’s long term aspirations, both parties are better off on their own.
What are your thoughts on this argument? Do you think Man United can match the Argentine’s salary requirements and also build a strong team around his talent without putting a strain on everything else?
Interesting read: 4 Times Teams Had Two First Choice Goalkeepers that Fought for Dominance
Author: Timothy Ainebyoona
Timothy is a dynamic analyst passionate about news and all things sport.