What if Lionel Messi Played Elsewhere?
By Nicholas Spiller
Lionel Messi is the greatest player in the world. Any soccer club would be more than thrilled to have him grace their pitch and wear their jersey. In fact, they'd give Messi piles and piles of money to wear their jersey and team colors.
Unfortunately for those other teams, Messi currently plays for arguably the greatest club in the world, Barcelona, and he's quite happy playing with Iniesta, Xavi, Alves and the rest, so the likelihood of him ever departing is slim. And Messi has actually said he like to stay at Barcelona for life when he was asked about links to other clubs:
"My intention is to stay at Barcelona forever,” Messi said. “I appreciate it, if it is true what is said, that there are people interested. It makes you proud that people say these things, but my life is in Barcelona.”
But just maybe, now that Messi has surpassed Cesar Rodriguez as the club’s all time goal scoring leader (at the astoundingly low age of 24!), perhaps the young Argentine will feel the need to take his amazing soccer skills somewhere else and take on a new challenge in another country maybe.
So the hypothetical question we all ask is, where would Messi go? And how would Messi do there?
1. Manchester City – What if the Blues hit a roadblock and their owner decides to throw a billion dollars at Barcelona to woo Messi to England? He could link up with Mario Balotelli, Samir Nasri, and David Silva in their quest to dethrone Man United as the northern champs of England. I don’t think it would work. First, England is cold, and the players are very physical. What if Messi gets a shattered fibula away at Charlton Athletic in a December Carling Cup match, and his grand career is in jeopardy? Additionally, the fact that Man City is such a super buyer should make any player hesitant to move there. Messi might actually find competition for time from new stars like Neymar or Eden Hazard, especially if he has a tough time adapting to the English game. Therefore, there' no way he would risk such a move no matter how much money they gave him. Plus, there's another Argentine who's had some troubles at the club getting along with the manager.
2. Real Madrid – Well, I’m sure someone’s done it before. It would be the ultimate mark of the traitor, but perhaps Messi’s relationship with Barcelona could become so sour that he feels compelled to link up with Christiano Ronaldo in an unstoppable duo, uniting the two greatest players of the game and resulting in ultimate La Liga domination. I fear that this move is impossible, and that it simply wouldn’t work. Although Messi currently fires in about 50 goals a year, so does Ronaldo. And though the prospect of 100 goals a season between the two players may be mouth watering, there may also be an issue of “too many cooks in the kitchen”. Both clubs look toward the two for direction and goals. Supporting players would get caught in two minds, and both players would suffer. And then Real Madrid's manager, Jose Mourinho, in a fit of frustration, might just explode.
3. Anzhi Makhachkala – Perhaps new Russian super-spenders may decide to add Messi to the ranks of Samuel Eto’o and Roberto Carlos, who are making boatloads of cash enduring the bleak harshness of post-Soviet Russia. Could Messi ever be persuaded to depart the hot Mediterranean sunshine for that? I doubt it. First off, Russian teams can only have 4 non-Russian players. So, Messi would have to reject playing with the Spanish wonder-gods of Xavi, Iniesta, and Fabregas and link up with Russian stars. When’s the last time Russia did anything in a national tournament? Also, look at this warning on the Wikitravel page that beckons the lovely Russian town of Makhachkala:
WARNING: Travel to Makhachkala is extremely dangerous and strongly discouraged. The presence of rebels and widespread criminality is highly active in the city, sharing a similar crime rate to Grozny and Magas.
4. Paris Saint-Germain – The new owners of Paris’ largest club may be well poised to snatch Messi and should actually be seen as the front-runners if anyone actually thinks a move is plausible. PSG’s new owners from Qatar have been busy since acquiring the club in 2011, purchasing the likes of Javier Pastore, Thiago Motta, Maxwell, and Alex to assemble a team of stars. They just missed out in luring Beckham to Paris. Perhaps they will take aim at Messi to bring serious attention and repect to Ligue 1. Paris is one of Europe’s finest cities, the league is soft, and Messi could live a secure life. It may be tempting towards the twilight of Messi’s career, but why would someone in his prime leave the ultimate club for a re-building project?
5. L.A. Galaxy – Or any other MLS club for that matter……They can hope. They can dream. But this just ain't happening. Well, maybe when Messi turns 40 or maybe 45 is more like it. And yes, Messi at 40 will still score a lot of goals in the MLS.
6. Chinese Super League Hebei Fortune - China is now where former top soccer players go to make piles of money. It used to be the Middle East, but these days it seems China has taken on that role. However, Messi is way too young still to end up playing in China, depsite how much money they might try to throw at him.
Nicholas Spiller is a freelance soccer writer and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.