During the international break a few storied institutions (Goal and the Star) reported that City have been putting together a huge deal for Lionel Messi over the last 18 months. Obviously this is nonsense, but if we were to take it at face value would this be a good move for City?
Messi is clearly one of the greatest players of all time, perhaps the very best. He is La Liga’s top goalscorer of all time at the age of 27 and has won everything many times (I’m not so bothered about the World Cup).
If the Argentine joined up with his compatriots at City he would obviously be a roaring success on the pitch. All the talk of “can he do it on a wet Tuesday night at Stoke?” would be exposed for the nonsense it is. Indeed, Stoke has never seen anyone like Messi. He would be as a god descending on Staffordshire, come to destroy.
Messi would score a phenomenal amount of goals for City and probably guarantee City at least a title and a few cups. He would also be a gold standard example for the young Academy players who would have a man to look up to who has become a mythical figure in the world of football.
He is a proven winner and record breaker who is best friends with Aguero and could dominate any league or team in the world, so what’s the problem? What are the potential issues with City (hypothetically) signing Lionel Messi?
To get the boring stuff out of the way first, let’s talk about money.
The figure of a £200m deal has been thrown about. Presumably this is an exaggeration and includes wages as well, but it speaks to a wider point. If City were to sign Messi the cost would be outrageous. All the hard work of getting to a point where the club is scheduled to break even would be undone in one fell swoop.
Maybe UEFA are so bad that they’d find some loophole to allow their favoured son to play in the Champion’s League regardless, but they are definitely going to have to make a big time example out of a team one day and we don’t want that particular bomb to land in East Manchester.
In addition, Messi would absolutely shake up the balance of the squad and the club as it stands. I am not convinced this is a good thing.
The powers that be at City have put a lot of time and effort into creating a dressing room which is full of stable, productive players who get on with each other and pull together for the benefit of the team. There don’t seem to be any power struggles and there is no indication of a fifth column inside City.
Messi is a mostly selfless player on the pitch but it’s easy to be selfless when everyone knows you’re the top dog. That wouldn’t be the case at City. Vincent Kompany rules that dressing room. Sergio Aguero is the breadwinner up front. David Silva and Yaya Toure influence the midfield to an incredible degree. Joe Hart bows to no one, for better or worse. City don’t have the tradition of deferring to Messi which has been built into every level of the Barcelona hierarchy over two decades.
Furthermore, Messi seems to be constantly in court or being investigated for tax evasion these days. Does this not sound like exactly the sort of off-the-pitch nonsense that City’s famously private owners so clearly wish to avoid. A Manchester City which included Messi would be all about Messi and not Manchester City, and that is something which does not appeal.
Lionel Messi would be incredible for City on the pitch. Off it he would be the gigantic star whose gravity disrupts everything around it.
The men in charge at City have been emphasising the long term at City right from the very beginning. The intelligent squad building, the youth academy, the much longed for continuity – all of these would be compromised by signing Messi. It would be a signing that does not fit anything we have been told these past years. Instead it would be a confirmation of every negative stereotype about this new City. A victory for a big spending, short term, nouveau-riche team.
Now don’t get me wrong, if he runs down his contract and comes for free or City can get him on a cut price bargain then let’s give it a shot, but sometimes the price is too high to pay. Money isn’t everything. Lionel Messi is not the right man for City. The club has to write its own history, not be a footnote in someone else’s.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter