By Ivan Lim
So the great Lionel Messi, with six World Player of the Year (Fifa Ballon d’Or) awards, 10 La Liga titles, four Uefa Champions League winners medals and a plethora of other footballing awards to his name, wants to go to England.
Quite specifically, the Argentinian forward hopes to go to Manchester City, according to ESPN, and spoke to City boss Pep Guardiola about his intentions following the 8-2 massacre of Catalan giants Barcelona at the hands of eventual winners Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League last week.
All that stands in the way of Messi’s move to the Etihad is a €700 million (S$1.13 billion) release clause.
At age 33, Messi is already at the twilight of his career and way past his prime. We're not saying he isn't still a powerful footballing force.
But €700 million?
I seriously wouldn’t pay more than €70 million, even if I were to hold a Saudi passport or own a company that doctored images on my website to include Barack Obama.
Manchester City, though, may be more inclined to shell out whatever amount it takes to acquire the services of the ageing superstar, and they know how to do so to keep within Uefa Financial Fair Play rules, or at least how to break the rules without being penalised too badly.
Messi’s move to Manchester, if it happens, would be an enormous boost to City. Not simply because his sublime skills will give them an edge and perhaps help them in their quest to win that Champions League title that always seems to elude them, but because his presence may win the team some real fans at last, and not just those who don’t want Liverpool to win anything.
Messi, though, remains adamant to leave the club he has represented since 2004. According to the BBC, he sent Barcelona a fax (which is so charmingly old school) on Tuesday indicating his desire to effect a clause in his contract which would allow him to depart from the club in a free transfer. Barcelona, though, say the clause expired on June 10, but Messi believed the clause should be extended to cover a season prolonged by the coronavirus epidemic.
A legal battle between Messi’s counsel and Barcelona looks set to take place, but if a Messi victory is in the interest of Manchester City, their legal team could provide the aid to secure his move. Hell, they could probably argue that Catalonia belongs to Manchester and secure Manchester’s readmission into the European Union while they’re at it.
But would making a move to Manchester City be the right thing for Messi – with just a year left before his Barcelona contract expires – to do?
In July last year – long before the coronavirus was a thing and way before COVID-19 had a name – I said that Messi should spend his remaining days as a player on Manchester City’s bench. (Yes, Football Siao saw signs of it happening even before this extended season started.)
Messi, however, will find life in Manchester City very different from his days in Barcelona. Whereas the Spanish side is quite obviously set up around him, he would probably have to fight for his place in Guardiola’s outfit.
I’m not suggesting Messi should abandon the idea of a move to Manchester, but perhaps going to Old Trafford – instead of the Etihad Stadium – would be a far more meaningful option.
He could lead the relatively young Manchester United side in his final seasons as a competitive footballer. He could encourage and inspire the rising talents among their ranks and perhaps even lead them to a domestic league or European title.
Uncle Lionel would get plenty more privileges at United than at Manchester City or Barcelona – the threat of the withdrawal of these being a sore point for him which triggered his asking for a transfer from Barcelona. He would easily fit into the starting-11 of any United set-up, and his presence would probably make the likes of Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Anthony Martial raise their game to reach their fullest potential. Even the mercurial Bruno Fernandes could learn a thing or two from the Argentinian superstar.
Now’s the best time for Messi to make that move. He could take the captain's armband from the troubled Harry Maguire, precipitate the maturity of the fledgling Red Devils, and gain billions more fans before retiring as he plays in a league that’s a lot more exciting and way more competitive than La Liga.
So please, Messi. Move to Old Trafford where United fans still wondering whether they’ll ever get Jadon Sancho on their side would welcome you with wide open arms, and while United still have it within their coffers to accommodate it.
And do it before a certain Cristiano Ronaldo – your great rival for many seasons at La Liga – decides to return to the place that catapulted him to stardom.
This article, “Dear Messi, forget City – go to Manchester United where you'll be loved”, originally appeared on Football Siao – Singapore’s craziest EPL website.