Lionel Messi to Inter? It's possible because of Zanetti – former assistant Jose Morais

Omnisport

Inter are capable of signing Barcelona captain Lionel Messi thanks to vice-president Javier Zanetti, according to former assistant coach Jose Morais.

Messi has been linked to Inter since ex-president Massimo Moratti said the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining the Serie A club was not a "forbidden dream".

Barca superstar Messi is contracted to the LaLiga champions until 2021 but his future is far from certain at Camp Nou, where he has clashed with board members this season.

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Morais knows Inter better than most, having served as Jose Mourinho's assistant during the Nerazzurri's treble-winning season in 2009-10.

Asked about the possibility of Messi swapping Barca for Inter, Morais – now head coach of K. League champions Jeonbuk Motors – highlighted the influence of the Argentina international's countryman Zanetti.

"You know what, I think it's possible," Morais, who led Jeonbuk to glory last season, told Stats Perform. "You know the reason why? Because they have Zanetti. Zanetti is like a tractor factor for Argentinian players.

"I think he is capable of attracting a player like Messi if he thinks about a different challenge. I think for an Argentinian player, it's almost to have a feeling like I'm going home, I'm going to Inter.

"My feeling is that Inter are welcoming in a special way and for Argentinian players, probably because of the presence of Zanetti. All of the Argentinians joining Inter are extraordinary players, they brought success to the club. I believe Messi can be one of these players."

While the possibility of Messi gracing the blue half of San Siro has excited fans, the prospect of star forward Lautaro Martinez leaving has dominated headlines.

Martinez has been heavily linked with Barca, who are reportedly determined to sign Messi's international compatriot as a long-term replacement for veteran Luis Suarez.

Also linked to Spanish giants Real Madrid and Premier League powerhouse Manchester City, Martinez had scored 16 goals in 31 games across all competitions before the coronavirus pandemic brought sport to a standstill.

Morais said: "I remember players myself, at certain moments of a career there was a player who decided to go to Barcelona because he thought maybe I could win the Champions League. He was a fantastic player like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He went to Barca. I believe that it can happen with any other player. But I think as a professional if you want to have a career, Inter are definitely a fantastic club to stay and make a career.

"I don't know what's going on in the head of a player, if a club like Madrid or Barca, with the impact they have, if it is possible to buy a player from Inter – it's possible. I don't know the conditions of the contract, but it can make the deal possible or not possible. If we speak about Neymar, he wants to leave from Paris Saint-Germain but the price is just too high for clubs to pay. It is not easy to leave.

"If the coronavirus situation will help the player, it's about the contract. I believe the situation in Spain is not too different from Italy at the moment. I don't think this will be a factor for the player to say I will leave Italy to go to Spain. It will be about the vision of his future and goals he has in his career. I hope for Inter they will keep Lautaro Martinez because he makes a difference. You need these kinds of players to win the league."

Morais enjoyed great success alongside Mourinho at Inter, winning the Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia in 2009-10 but the Italian club have struggled to reach those lofty heights since the Portuguese's departure.

However, Inter – with Steven Zhang and Suning Holdings Group in charge – have made progress, luring former Juventus and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte to Milan, while investing heavily in the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Christian Eriksen, Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi, Diego Godin and Ashley Young.

Inter made a fast start to 2019-20 but fell away prior to the COVID-19 crisis, sitting third and nine points adrift of defending champions Juve at the time of Serie A's postponement in March.

"I believe in the club, in the people who are working there. In Italy, I'm Interista. As Interista, there is only one way to think – it's to believe that the club can, in any circumstance, be a competitor for the title," the 54-year-old Morais added.

"With the investment this season, it's possible. It's important to have stability, in terms of organisation, to succeed in the next years. Conte is a good coach. He has been winning titles. He did what he did with Juventus and Chelsea, and hopefully for Inter, he will also make them champions. This is my wish because I want the best for Inter in Italy."

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