Ok, so in the end – despite a flurry of excitement on the #LUFC Twitter hashtag – it wasn’t to be. Although, some online bookmakers like the ones found on WhichBookie.co.uk seemed to think that there was a chance, once it was revealed that Barcelona superstar, Lionel Messi, would be leaving the Spanish giants; a club that he had been with for 21 years.
Since being introduced into Barca’s senior team in 2003, Messi has played 778 games, provided 305 assists and scored 672 goals; a record that is unlikely to be beaten at the club anytime soon. However, despite the club and Messi agreeing a new 5-year contract for him to remain at Camp Nou, which would have meant a 50% reduction in his wages, the deal fell through due to “financial and structural obstacles”.
A statement from the club read:
“Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish Liga regulations).
“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.
“FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life.”
Lionel Messi is considered to be one of the best footballers to grace the pitch and his departure from the club he has been with for over two decades is possibly the biggest move in football history. Messi was a free agent when his contract with Barcelona expired at the end of June, so whichever club picked the six-time Ballon d’Or winner up, it was always going to be all about his wage demands.
So, which clubs were in the running to sign the 34-year old superstar?
Paris Saint Germain (13/20)
Ligue 1 side PSG were justifiably favourites to put pen to paper with Messi and bring him to France to play alongside the likes of Neymar, Mbappe and Sergio Ramos. The attraction to Paris eventually proved enough of a temptation to Messi, along with being reunited with ex-teammate Neymar and crucially the funds were available to afford him.
Manchester City (7/1)
With a string of world-class players and the finances to meet Messi’s wage demands, Premier League title holders Manchester City were the top choice of English clubs if Messi had decided to play in England. City’s style of play would likely have suited Messi given that he is 34 years old and manager Pep Guardiola would surely have been a reason for him to consider the move. However, City signed Jack Grealish for £100m from Aston Villa and have had their eyes on England number 9 Harry Kane, who would set them back even more. Even for City, splashing out for Messi’s wages would have been a push, albeit not out of the question.
Manchester United (20/1)
Our old friends and foes from just outside Manchester might have expected to be in the running for his signature maybe a decade ago, but they were outsiders to attract Messi in their state today. They would no doubt be interested but the club has had to dig deep in their pockets for new signings Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane and although they may have tried to show some intent, the move was always unlikely to materialise.
Lionel Messi Next Club Odds Were:
- PSG: 13/20
- To stay at Barcelona: 13/5
- Manchester City: 7/1
- Any MLS Club: 16/1
- Manchester United: 20/1
- Newells Old Boys: 20/1
- Liverpool: 25/1
So what about Leeds United?
Bookies had Leeds United as 19th favourites to sign Messi in the summer transfer window with online bookmaker Sky Bet offering odds of 50/1, doubtless influenced by Messi’s well-known adoration of Marcelo Bielsa.
So, Messi to Leeds? Well, in the end, money talked, so this was just a beautiful and short-lived pipe dream, but the United Twitteratti certainly enjoyed the entertainment while it lasted. Although, let’s face it – at 34, Lionel may never even have survived the first Murderball session, so it may well turn out that we’re better off with Lewis Bate after all…
Marching On Together