Could Messi Move To Manchester In January?

The summer transfer window was a frustrating one for both of Manchester’s English Premier League clubs, as the most talked-about moves failed to materialize. At Manchester United, fans experienced a long, drawn-out chase for Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho that ended with the player staying put, and the Red Devils ending up with Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani instead. Both players have spent most of their time at Old Trafford on the bench thus far. Manchester City had an even higher priority target in Lionel Messi after the Argentine’s surprise request to leave Barcelona. That, too, failed to go anywhere, and as the season got underway, the deal appeared to be dead.

If Barcelona hoped that Messi would forget all about his desire to get away from the Nou Camp once the season got underway, they were mistaken. Barcelona’s poor form under new manager Ronald Koeman has done nothing to persuade Messi that things are about to change for him in Spain, and the player himself has been far from his best. Barca has lost three of their opening eight league games and trail surprise leaders Real Sociedad by twelve points. Messi looks lost, and has recently been omitted from the club’s Champions League squad for the next round of fixtures. The official reason is that the legendary goalscorer is being ‘rested.’ Very few journalists in Spain appear to believe that story. Messi’s exit at the end of the season is now viewed as an inevitability, but there are some suggestions that it might come even earlier.

Aside from their on-pitch woes, Barcelona is facing financial difficulty, with enormous debts that need to be repaid and aging players on huge salaries. Balancing the books is as high a priority as improving the team’s performances for the Barcelona board, and they can ill afford to lose Messi at the end of the campaign without banking a fee for him. That’s why a well-placed bid from Manchester City during the January transfer window might tempt them. It would give Barcelona a cash injection and an opportunity to break from the past, and it would provide Messi with an end to what increasingly looks like a nightmare final season with the club he’s spent his whole career with. Manchester City has the cash to make the move happen, and as of last week, they also have the security that Messi is looking for when it comes to personnel.

Although he hasn’t commented publicly on the issue since reluctantly confirming that he’d withdraw his transfer request at the start of the season, it’s understood that Messi had two conditions for moving to Manchester. One of them was that his friend and Argentina strike partner Sergio Aguero would remain with the club. Although Aguero is struggling for fitness and, at 32, is no longer quite the goalscoring force that he used to be, there’s no suggestion that he’s about to depart the Etihad any time soon. Messi’s other condition – and the most important factor – is that manager Pep Guardiola stays in charge of the team. The Catalan coach’s existing contract was due to expire at the end of this season, which briefly cast some doubt on Guardiola’s prospects of staying in charge beyond May 2021, but that’s no longer the case. The popular coach has signed a new two-year extension. If Messi were to join him in Manchester either in January or the summer, that would take him through to the age of 36 and, in all likelihood, his retirement. Messi and his all-time-favorite manager could go out together – a prospect that’s thought to appeal to the man seen by many as the greatest player of all time.

Aside from being a huge coup for the club from a PR and financial point of view, the early arrival of Messi could be the shot in the arm that City’s season needs. For all the club’s past achievements under Guardiola, they’re currently enduring their worst start to a season in the past decade. Their defeat to league leaders Tottenham Hotspur over the weekend has left them in the bottom half of the table, eight points adrift of Spurs and Liverpool and behind neighbors Manchester United. There has not – yet – been press speculation that Guardiola might lose his job in the same way that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had to put up with rumors of that kind at Old Trafford, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone within the club’s hierarchy is happy with the current state of affairs. City looks blunt in attack with Aguero injured and Gabriel Jesus flattering to deceive. Messi would be the right man at the right time to turn their season around before the campaign gets away from them.

Throwing a star player into the mix of a misfiring team isn’t a strategy that guarantees success. In fact, it reminds us of someone making a big-money bet on an online slots game with free spins no deposit. You don’t improve your chances of success when you’re playing games at an online slots website just by making a bigger bet – you also need the symbols on the reels to line up for you. Players have no control over that. Even if they can spin and land three or four big-money symbols at the same time, they won’t win anything unless those symbols line up together perfectly. It’s not the size of a bet that governs success at online slots – it’s good fortune. Messi is the ultimate ‘big money symbol’ in world football, but nobody knows how he might line up with City’s other star players. Would he complement Kevin de Bruyne or get in his way? Can he link up with Gabriel Jesus? Would he impede the development of Phil Foden? Until we see it happen, there’s no way of knowing for sure.

Joining in the middle of an ongoing season probably wouldn’t have been seen as the optimal solution to the Messi situation a few weeks ago, but nobody could have predicted how badly Barcelona’s season would have begun, nor how apparent the need for him at City would become at the same time. The player is unhappy. His club needs money. Manchester City need to make improvements quickly. The stage is now set for a move that was written off two months ago to be revived and happen earlier than anyone expected it to. Even if City did have to part with £50m or more to make the deal happen, they’d recoup it in shirt sales and sponsorships almost immediately. The pairing of Messi and Guardiola at Barcelona once dominated La Liga. They’re both a little older now, but there’s no reason to believe that the same pairing couldn’t dominate the Premier League even if it were only for a season or two. Don’t be surprised if it happens.

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