By Sam McGuire, Football Whispers
Spending £280m on a player is no longer fantasy. It’s no longer something only dreamed up on Football Manager.
There’s a very real chance, given the increase in money being pumped into the world of football, that Lionel Messi’s €300m release clause could be activated and the Barcelona legend could end up plying his trade elsewhere.
The 30-year-old superstar has less than 12 months remaining on his current deal and, according to ESPNFC, Messi is refusing to put pen to paper on a new one.
Furthermore, he’s put a stop to contract talks altogether until Barcelona finish their business this summer.
The player appears to be contemplating his future at the very moment Barcelona need him more than ever, not just on the pitch but off of it, too. W
hat’s a kingdom without a king? Neymar was supposed to be his heir but he made the decision to rule Paris. Now Yahoo sources in France have revealed Manchester City are plotting a move to reunite Messi with Pep Guardiola.
Our friends at Football Whispers have taken a look at who may be Guardiola’s sacrificial lamb if he does manage to pry Messi away from the Catalans.
Aguero’s future has been up in the air since Guardiola arrived in Manchester. Many had question marks over his suitability to the system the manager looked set to deploy.
There are no doubts over the Argentine striker when he’s inside the penalty area but it’s everything that does before it that resulted in pundits and fans alike being unsure as to whether Aguero had a long-term future under the Catalan-born coach.
The former Atletico Madrid striker was benched in February as new signing Gabriel Jesus lead the City line and looked electric in the process. He scored three goals in five matches before an injury opened the door for an Aguero return.
While Jesus and Aguero have shown signs of an understanding when playing together, it’s not as fluid as Guardiola may have envisaged. With the former being the future of the club, and being more malleable, the manager may persist with him and this would result in the latter being relegated to the bench.
Messi has showed he can share centre stage, to an extent, with someone his junior having done just that with Neymar. And it didn’t do him any harm.
Perhaps Messi’s arrival would see Jesus used sparingly as he prepares to takeover from Aguero down the line? While it’s clear he has a lot of potential and even more to offer the first-team right now, he’s still learning his trade and in a complex Guardiola system there’s no shame in taking time to adapt.
Jesus has looked a little out of sorts in the opening two matches. He’s been getting into the right positions but he’s failed to put the ball in the back of the net. Would a role as an impact sub be too detrimental to his progression this season?
City are littered with attacking options and adding Messi to the squad pushes all of them down the pecking order. Unlike Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Bernardo Silva, Sterling isn’t an attacking player who can operate in a centre-midfield role, at least not on a regular basis, meaning his options are limited.
In Guardiola’s new 3-5-2 system there may have been a role for Sterling as a wing-back but having spent over £100 million on three new full-backs this summer it’s unlikely he’ll see many starts there.
Furthermore, with Aguero, Jesus and Messi vying for two of those starting roles in attack it begs the question; just where will Sterling see minutes this season?
The wildcard of the list. Last season saw Messi used in a more withdrawn role from time to time.
Many believe Messi has the potential to play as a creative midfielder as his career enters its twilight and with Guardiola using two attacking midfielders in box-to-box roles, there’s no reason not to imagine the Argentine maestro taking a fancy to such a role.
He’d see a lot of the ball, have the freedom of the middle third and City add a goal threat to their midfield.
The Portuguese playmaker, however, can operate in a wide role which would allow Messi to replace Silva in the centre.