When Pep Guardiola was hired as Manchester City’s manager in 2016, many hypothesized that the English outfit would be interested in purchasing Lionel Messi from Barcelona. These were no more than a few casual rumors, but these fantasies may now become a reality.
Following Barcelona’s embarrassing exit from the UEFA Champions League for a third consecutive season, the Argentine announced his frustration with the club and revealed that he was ready to leave. The news shook the football world, and pundits and fans alike began to speculate where Messi would move.
According to recent reports, a transfer to Manchester City seems most likely, and with good reason. First, Messi is familiar with Manchester City’s hierarchy. City’s Director of Football Txiki Begiristain was formerly the Director of Football at Barcelona. City’s Chief Executive Officer Ferran Soriano was previously the Vice President at Barcelona.
Guardiola was also Messi’s former manager, when the Catalan and Argentine won two Champions Leagues over the course of four seasons. Second, Messi is best friends with his international teammate and Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero, and the two maintain their strong relationship. Third, Manchester City play a style of football that suits Messi, and he will surely fit into the squad. Fourth, it would offer him a new challenge. Manchester City’s desire to win the Champions League is the worst kept secret in football, and the acquisition of Messi could help the English club achieve this goal. Finally, according to Bleacher Report, Messi has expressed his desire to join Manchester City.
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The Argentine would be welcomed at City. He is a highly decorated player, where he earned every single club honor with Barcelona, and on numerous occasions.
The Argentine has a strong work ethic, where he is capable of turning a match on its head, and simply put, he is perhaps the best footballer of all time. Should he be acquired by Manchester City, Messi’s contributions to the English club would be unparalleled.
Within this potential fame and fortune, however, are a variety of reasons for why the English outfit should not sign football’s biggest star.
First and foremost is financial fair play. According to The Guardian, Lionel Messi’s release clause is €700 million. While Messi and his representatives have argued that he should be allowed to leave the club on a free transfer, Barcelona have insisted that the deadline for his free transfer has expired. Should the €700 million fee remain in effect, Manchester City would need to determine how they would balance their books without violating financial pair play.
The English club has already sold Leroy Sané to Bayern München for €60 million, but City would need to determine how they would offset the remaining €640 million. This, of course, does not include the combined sum of €68 million for the recently acquired Ferran Torres and Nathan Aké. The rumored departures of Nicolás Otamendi, John Stones, and Angeliño will also not be significant enough to offset a Messi transfer.
Second, according to Transfermarkt, the most Manchester City have ever spent in a transfer window was €318 million, which was during the summer of 2017. Messi’s transfer fee would be more than twice the amount of what City had spent in 2017. This would not include Messi’s wages, which are reportedly over €1 million a week, per talkSPORT.
The Argentine is currently 33, and City would perhaps be better advised to invest this large sum of money in their youth academy system and a few long term transfers rather than on someone who is getting closer to the end of their football career.
Third, there is an alternative fee City could pay to acquire Messi, but it would come at a greater cost. According to Spanish newspaper AS, Manchester City have reportedly offered Barcelona €100 million plus three of their current players for the Argentine.
These players are believed to be striker Gabriel Jesus, midfielder Bernardo Silva, and center back Eric García. The loss of these players would be enormous. The 2019/20 English Premier League season exposed City’s weaknesses at striker and center back, and the potential departures of Jesus and García would mean that City would have to search and pay for additional players on top of an already-expensive Messi transfer.
Finally, Bernardo has been one of City’s key players in recent seasons, where his contributions helped guide City to a centurion season, followed by the domestic triple (or according to some, a domestic quadruple).
The results of the 2019/20 EPL season showed that City desperately need to strengthen their defense. Center back Aymeric Laporte missed the majority of the season due to injury, and John Stones and Nicolás Otamendi failed to step up during Laporte’s absence. The displays of Stones and Otamendi mean that they are likely to leave the club.
João Cancelo failed to test Kyle Walker in the right back position. As for the left back, Benjamin Mendy was plagued by a series of injuries while midfielder-turned-defender Oleksandr Zinchenko struggled this season to replace his teammate. Guardiola also gave up on Angeliño, where the Spanish left back was sent to RB Leipzig on loan.
Given these issues, City need to address these weaknesses in order to become serious contenders for the EPL and Champions League next season. A Messi transfer, however, would see the English club allocate their resources toward an expensive transfer for one player rather than on three individuals who would fill the void in these defensive areas.
Finally, if Manchester City were to acquire Messi, this would mean that some of City’s squad members would miss out on game time. The introduction of Messi into City’s starting XI would mean that it would hinder the growth of some of the club’s current players, such as Phil Foden or Riyad Mahrez.
Over the past two seasons, Foden and Mahrez have worked hard to earn their places in the first team. Messi’s potential arrival, however, would see their work undone as it is unlikely that anyone would be able to replace Messi in the pecking order. While Foden and Mahrez are not at the caliber of Messi, these two players have still contributed significantly to their club, and it would be a shame for them to miss out.
Overall, Manchester City are in pole position to sign Lionel Messi. The Argentine is one of the world’s greatest footballers and he would likely bring more fame and glory to Manchester. Despite this option, the English club should consider the substantial costs of such a transfer, and they should exhaust all of their potential course of action before they bid for the Argentine. Would a transfer for Messi be worth it?