Who could afford to buy Messi, if he leaves Barcelona?

Who could afford to buy Messi, if he leaves Barcelona?

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates his goal against SD Eibar at the Camp Nou Stadium last year. Is it possible that the world great will leave his boyhood club? Picture: LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

IT APPEARS that Messi has told Barcelona that he is ready to leave the club he has been with since the age of 13. To which the powers that be in the Camp Nou replied, that any attempt to take the talented Argentinian from them would trigger the €700m buy-out clause in the contract they have with their No 10 superstar.

News that Messi might be sold, saw Barca fans invade the Camp Nou to protest any such proposition. Why they thought the invasion of an empty stadium would achieve anything is unclear but I guess they made their point, which is that they do not like the idea of losing their diminutive genius.

That Messi then reportedly told the Barcelona board that he wanted to go anyway must have hit those fans hard. Nevertheless, there is speculation that Messi's request to leave was a politically motivated heave on the Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, rather than any serious wish to go anywhere else.

Who could have thought that these set of circumstances would have ever arisen in Barcelona? How could a relationship that shared so much love between a player, a club and most importantly with the fans become so troubled? And should the world superstar actually leave Catalonia, who would be able to afford such a price-tag?

First off, can Messi actually leave the club? He believes that he can unilaterally terminate his contract with the Catalonian giants. But, as we have said, Barcelona would likely contest that, especially if €700m is riding on the decision.

Very few clubs would have the resources or the ambition to buy Messi. The few mentioned include Manchester United, Inter Milan, Juventus, and of course, Manchester City and PSG.

Man City is owned by Sheikh Mansour, a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, with an estimated net worth of $30bn. $2bn of which he has spent on new signings at the club since taking it over in 2011.

There is a certain amount of tactical sense in Messi moving to the Eastlands, as for one, it would reunite him with his former Barca boss Pep Guardiola. Neither man has achieved as much as they did together since Guardiola left for Bayern back in 2012.

Interestingly, Messi may be the perfect match for what City would require, playing an attacking central role in the classic No 10 position in the gap between midfield and City's impressive attacking line. He could fit in naturally in that space vacated by David Silva's departure.

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola (left) and Lionel Messi together back in 2011. Man City are  one of the clubs in the running to sign Messi reuniting the successful combination in Manchester. 	  Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola (left) and Lionel Messi together back in 2011. Man City are  one of the clubs in the running to sign Messi reuniting the successful combination in Manchester.   Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

PSG are owned by the billionaire ruler of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and, in the last three years, has forked out the two most expensive transfer fees in football history, paying Barcelona $263 million for the signing of Neymar in 2017, and AS Monaco $213 million for Kylian Mbappe a year later.

Messi joining PSG may be the most exciting option. The prospect of him joining his former teammate and friend Neymar along with the continent's most exciting young talent in Mbappe does make the mouth water. But as PSG's Champions League final performance proved, throwing money at a problem does not guarantee success. Also, there is a strong possibility that the arrival of Messi would ruffle and even upset the equilibrium and egos of the existing talent in Paris.

Other suggested clubs for a Messi move include Man United in England and Inter Milan or Juventus in Italy.

United's global business dominance always mean they are included when contract speculations are on the go. There is no doubt that United, as a business proposition, would make the most sense financially. Messi, whose career-long affiliation with Adidas would also work well with United's kits producers, along with the fleet of other business concerns United have become masters at. 

On the field, Messi would work well in United's counterattacking style and there is a space for him in their right side of attack. But will United's recent poor record and Ole Gunner Solksjaer low profile as a manager suit the ambitions of Messi?

Inter Milan's ambitions would not be a question but many believe the free spirit of Messi would be stifled by the Inter's dogmatic and regimented manager Antonio Conte, so that looks unlikely.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina's Lionel Messi shake hands during an international friendly match at Old Trafford, Manchester in 2014. Is it possible that the two superstars could join forces in Turin? 	Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina's Lionel Messi shake hands during an international friendly match at Old Trafford, Manchester in 2014. Is it possible that the two superstars could join forces in Turin? Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

That leaves Juventus and the alluring prospect of Messi and Ronaldo playing together. Who knows if this would be a dream made in heaven or the worst nightmare ever when these giant egos meet? To be fair, the ego Juventus possess itself would be one of the few clubs capable of catering to the two superstars. It would certainly be the most interesting of spectacles and one lots of people would pay good money to see.

In truth, only City or PSG have the wherewithal and the neck to blow the guts of a billion euro on one player. All the rest may posture about this once-in-a-life-time marque buy, but none of their boards would ever greenlight such financing on a 33-year old player, even if his name is Messi.

In the reality of the Covid-19 world, where the presence of thousands of fans at a venue still looks like a distant prospect, and TV rights look likely to decline, even the financial might of City and PSG will pause before emptying the bank on a player that, it must be remembered, will be available on a free transfer at the end of his contract in 2021.

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