I can't see Messi at City

Published: Thursday, 27 August 2020

I might be wrong. Occasionally I am! But I really can’t see Lionel Messi at Manchester City.

There are a number of very good reasons - all of which could be overcome if all parties really want to make the deal - but I’m not convinced.

I understand that Messi is deeply pissed off right now, but he has no right to be. Barcelona have been fantastic to him. He’s earned trillions whilst enjoying privilege at the club that no player in history ever has. He’s run the place for 15 years. Granted - he’s delivered. I watched him single handedly destroy Arsenal one evening at the Camp Nou. It was an individual performance the likes of which I’d never seen - and haven’t seen since. He can do things with a football that leave you breathless. He’s a genius - but, he’s an ageing genius.

He’s 33 now and can’t dominate individuals, games or teams like he once did. It’s always been the case that if you had Messi (or similar if such a thing exists) then somebody else in your team is going to have to put the work of two men into 90 minutes. Or, as a collective, the rest have got to put in an extra shift. That’s why he liked playing with Neymar so much - if he was walking about for 10 minutes a little disinterested, then Neymar would come alive. They worked well together. And Busquets did the dirty bits.

But as Messi has aged so too have Barca. As a collective they’re not the force they once were. That’s painfully obvious. Messi cuts a lonely and frustrated figure. He knows his powers are waning.

Messi doesn’t speak English. Not an insurmountable problem, but an issue. And whatever you read or hear - he doesn’t like Guardiola and Guardiola doesn’t like him. It is well known within football circles that Guardiola realised it was time to leave Barca when Messi told him ‘never do that to me again’ after he’d been subbed. Messi’s power are the club exceeded that of Guardiola.

So why would they want to get it back on now?  As I’ve said, Messi is a fading force. Does he really fancy his chances in the PL at 33? Gonzalo Higuain went back to Italy complaining PL defenders are ‘built like wardrobes and kick the shit out of you’. Our league is a whole lot more intense than any other in Europe.

We don’t yet know if Messi will win a fight to leave Barca. They claim a release clause of something like €680m - he says he can leave on a free because last season ran past May and finished in August - so he’s into his last year and the clause has lapsed.

Guardiola demands work from his teams. Do you remember how many times he’d go after Aguero in the early days of their relationship? Aguero was scoring goals - but not working. Guardiola left him out until he got the message. So where would that put Messi?

Serious question - would any City fan drop De Bruyne to fit him in? No chance.

Messi is class. But he also needs class around him. That’s why he’s failed to cut it at international level. Players representing Argentina weren’t as good as those at Barca.

If - and I still believe it’s if - Messi leaves Barca I can’t see any other sensible destination for him than Italy. Ibra is still getting away with it in that league approaching 40. Messi would tear it up in a very different way to Ronaldo.

Ronald Koeman has set his stall out. A big piece of me understands that he wants to make an impression. I remember Terry Venables going in at Barca and doing the same. He sold Maradona - which shook football at the time - but we found out why. He had issues that the whole world has since become aware of.

Koeman has decided to go looking for trouble. Big mistake. Don’t go looking - there’s plenty that will find you. A fight with Messi will have exactly that - a messi ending - and right now I can’t see any winners.