The end could be close. Lionel Messi’s relationship with one of soccer’s great institutions, FC Barcelona, might be at an end as the rumors and speculation kick up a gear. The Argentina is arguably the best player of all time and given his achievements in the Catalan capital, a change could be as good as a holiday for a footballer whose only known one professional club his entire life.
At 28-years of age Messi has transformed from a scruffy-haired little runaway to a prim and proper man on top of the world. His close control and dribbling skills are unparalleled, not to mention a goal scoring record that is the envy of thousands of professional players around the globe (290 in 323 appearances and counting!).
So why leave? Why separate the best player from one of the best clubs? Why does a guy like Messi have to move because everyone else eventually does? These are all valid points, but they all dismiss the growing talk that a transfer to a different club and a different league is a strong possibility. And this is talk coming from the Messi camp themselves – don’t pin this all on the tabloid newspapers.
Since he was picked up as a young boy in 2001 to the La Masia academy in Barcelona at 13, Messi has been fed a diet of Tiki-taka football and nothing else. Many doubters say that anyone could be a superstar in this Barca team and to prove himself as a legend, he needs to perform away from Spain.
If the chat around the Nou Camp is correct and Messi is ready to pack his bags, these are the 15 reasons why he will depart.
15. Neymar Jr.
The king is dead – long live the king. Few ever thought that Barcelona would find a successor to Messi’s thrown and while his goal scoring exploits are far more modest at the moment, Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr. looks poised to lead the team’s attack into 2016 and beyond. For now he’s prepared to be one of a trio cutting in off the left hand side and assisting his teammates. But he won’t play second or third fiddle for long. The papers are speculating that a ridiculous bid from Manchester United could be tabled in a few weeks for Neymar, so if Barca wants to cash in on Messi now they should rest easy in the comfort that the next phenomenon is already on their payroll.
14. Luis Suarez
Goals, goals, goals. For all the swagger and pizzazz that comes with Messi and Neymar, the Hannibal Lecter impersonator and Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez is the man who can fill the void of putting balls in the back of the net. Even during the club’s glory years under Pep Guardiola the team were over reliant on Messi’s goals, but now the circumstances have changed to the point where he is seen as one of a three, not the go-to man for all occasions. It’s a shift in dynamic that has long been in the making and now the time has arrived, goals should not be an issue.
The French champions and serial UEFA Champions League participants want to make a bigger splash every year. According to CBS Sports earlier this year, they want to make their next splash a tidal wave that makes the whole soccer world sit up and take notice. While Cristiano Ronaldo is heavily favored to ditch Real Madrid in the next 12 months for Paris, anything that changes those plans would immediately place Messi at the top of their wish list. PSG is only going to get bigger and better, it’s just a matter of choosing which superstars will get onboard with the project.
12. Separation From Basque Politics
The mood for change is in the air at Barcelona and no, it has very little to do with the football team. This year Catalan separatists won a key election in Spain to push for a breakaway and independence from the nation that it resides in. This potential powder keg of an issue threatens to spill over into La Liga and rumors about Barcelona leaving the competition aren’t going away should the split be confirmed. The whole drama has very little to do with Lionel Messi, but it might be something he would want to avoid.
11. Luis Enrique Friction
A treble win in June might have gone a long way to repairing the damage, but no one can deny that there was damage to begin with. Lionel Messi is no shrinking violet in the dressing room and is believed to dictate much of what happens on the field of play. Luis Enrique’s first campaign last season could not have ended any better, but it was a rocky start as reports emerged that the Argentine was forced to train on his own. The clash occurred almost a year ago and only they know if their pairing is an ongoing viability.
10. Tax Problem
He’ll never have a problem paying the bills, yet the tax regulations in Spain have put Messi in hot water. The superstar has been investigated by the local tax authorities for dodging payments between 2007 and 2009 in the millions and their persistence on the case is not letting up. This is one of the main reasons why a $1.2 million weekly salary is being mooted because it is always before tax. Any money he does gain in England or elsewhere would have to be offset by fines to repay what he missed all those years ago.
9. Manchester United In The Market
Dropping out of the UEFA Champions League to the likes of Wolfsburg and PSV Eindhoven is one thing, playing dull and unattractive football is quite another. Manager Louis Van Gaal is under the pump to produce and given the financial power of Manchester United, they might get anxious enough to pull the trigger on the biggest transfer of them all. The Dutch coach is already maligned for wasting huge amounts of cash on the likes of Angel Di Maria, so the team would have to rediscover their flair if Messi came to the club.
8. Manchester City Wealth
Such is the absurd wealth the Middle East owners of The City Group possess, Messi’s reported demand of $1.2 million per week salary would be no object to them. Without getting into specifics, there are only a handful of clubs who can get close to signing the player in the current market. Paris Saint Germain, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. Event that list might be too long, but the Citizens will consider themselves in prime position given the $3 billion being brought in from China last week. On this level of finance, money truly is no object.
7. Arsenal’s Interest
The Independent newspaper knew they would get a big reaction from readers when this story emerged that Messi wanted a move to Arsenal in November. It might take all 60,000 Emirates patrons and then some to build the crowdfund project with a bit of help from the Gunners hierarchy to make the move possible, but the links have been talked about in the past. With Oliver Giroud and Theo Walcott failing to impress up front and with an injury crisis getting beyond breaking point (no pun intended), perhaps a move to North London can’t be ruled out. London does seem a preferable living destination to Manchester for foreigners.
6. Chelsea Desperate And Keen
If you trust bookmakers then put money down on the maestro turning up at Stamford Bridge next season. This report in The Mirror from the British betting company Sky Bet makes the credible connection that owner Roman Abramovich is worth a lot of money as the club need a new striker and Messi wants a move away from Spain. While all of those things may be true, it could be seen by many people as putting 2 and 2 together to come up with 5. There is a lot of turmoil surrounding the blue side of London at the moment, so a move there would have to come with a lot of zeroes at the end of the contract.
5. Following Maradona’s Example
Another diminutive, left-footed Argentine playmaker was lighting up La Liga at Barcelona in the early 1980s. The only difference was he left to go to Napoli in Serie A, leading the maligned club to the title for the very first time. Yes, Diego Maradona might have struggled with drugs and off-field antics, but it speaks to his ambition (and wallet) that El Diego went to carry a more underrated team to glory whereas Messi has stayed in a relative comfort zone in Spain. He won’t make any decisions to silence the doubters form the older generation who say Maradona was better, yet if he did leave to pull a more unfancied team to titles that would be an extra notch on his belt.
4. Reunion With Pep Guardiola
Depending on who you read, Messi still adores his former coach Pep Guardiola or doesn’t bother speaking to him anymore. Neither scenario matters in the overall scheme of things if fate aligns and the pair is reunited at Manchester City. Messi was at the peak of his powers under the current Bayern Munich head honcho so it would make sense that the men would want to be reacquainted in the near future. Guardiola refuses to sign a contract extension at Bayern, teasing the German club about his intentions and with the Argentine also in limbo, whose not to say they won’t get the band back together again?
3. Expanding Messi Brand
Whether it’s by accident or design, Lionel Messi is a brand. His ties to Adidas speak for themselves, just like other major corporations do connecting with the big sporting greats. The terminology “built to win” across all of the Messi-Adidas apparel is not a mistake – when he wins, they win. Enjoying a net worth of $210 million on top of a $44.68 million salary opens up a lot of doors, but it also creates an environment of excellence that has to be upheld at all times. Opening up new channels into the Premier League would increase his market share into different corporate entities and when any decision is made, this priority will be right up there.
2. Nothing Left To Prove At Barca
290 goals in 323 matches. 7 La Liga titles. 3 Copa del Rey trophies. 6 Supercopa wins. 4 UEFA Champions League winners’ medals. 3 UEFA Super Cups. 2 FIFA Club World Cups. 3 Ballon d’Or titles. The list goes on and on and one. Does he fancy a Barclays Premier League trophy, a Bundesliga or Serie A medal? It would be great for fans outside of Barcelona to see him try his hand at getting a different trophy into his huge cabinet because with this list of honors there seriously is nothing left for him to prove in Spain. It’s all been done before.
1. Agent Mino Raiola Wants Big Pay Day
Behind every great footballer, there is a dodgy agent pulling the strings behind the scenes demanding more cash and exposure for their prized possession. Italian-born Dutch agent Mino Raiola is a key figure behind closed doors in this scenario and he is not afraid to step on people’s toes to get what he wants. Raiola looks after some of the highest profile people in the sport, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and his biggest client, Lionel Messi. He’s been involved in transfers accumulating more than $600 million and given his lifestyle in Monte Carlo, he has big bills to pay. A move to line the pockets of Messi will line the pockets of Raiola, so think about that fact when you see the rumor mill go into overdrive.
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