It was always going to happen at some point – Barcelona is getting old. Xavi is now 33 years old, Dani Alves is now 30 and they recently had to part with the legendary Carlos Puyol. The ‘tiki-taka’ team of five years ago is certainly long gone, with new Barcelona manager Luis Enrique brought in to start the first stages of a transition.
A transition is something all footballing sides have to go through at some point in time, but with Barcelona it felt as though the players from five years ago would never face the fall. Old age has crept up on the team however, which leads to a very different Barcelona outfit.
The setup is still the same, to take complete control of the ball and to attack precisely. Tika-taka hasn’t completely left Barcelona but it will never be the same as it was in its prime. Enrique deploys a 4-3-3 with both wingers switching sides constantly to keep the full backs alert. Sergio Busquets cleans up any hint of an attack through the middle with newly signed Ivan Rakitić used as a playmaker and Iniesta gliding through the defenses. The setup and quality of players is similar but will depend on promoting youth through their academies, hoping to unlock new gems and create a new era for Barcelona. This all sounds great for the future, but the real focus remains Lionel Messi and potentially why he should leave Barcelona to prolong his own career.
To even contemplate a Barcelona without Messi is hard to fathom, from the age of 20 he has destroyed La Liga opponents and claimed every club trophy on offer. However, with the club looking towards the future, perhaps it would be a shrewd move for the Argentinian to analyze other club options available to him.
When Cristiano Ronlado left Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2009 the Spanish side were certainly not the complete package they boast today. It could be argued at that time they were going through a transitional phase as they had a lot of potentially world-class players yet to reach the heights expected of them. Ronaldo was brought in as a player to build the team completely around, five years later and the club have won the Champions League and La Liga titles – transition complete.
Messi, in his current situation, is one goal behind Telmo Zarra in the all-time La Liga scoring charts. The little maestro will surpass that feat shortly and should be able to keep Ronaldo at bay, who is ninth on the list and 56 goals behind his counterpart.
So with that in mind, what more can Messi achieve in the league and with Barcelona? He could help the youth settle in and learn the new system that Barcelona are creating. However, for all of his traits, leadership isn’t one of his best abilities. A fresh challenge would appear the best outcome.
Barcelona would never sell Messi unless the Argentinian wanted to leave, so if he did the next stage would be who could afford him and what challenge could entice him to that league club?
Here’s a list of potential suitors and reasons why they’d pay the money required to lure Messi.
Bayern Munich – currently one of the best teams in the world and being managed by Pep Guardiola could see Messi being interested in a move to be reunited with his old manager. Could be deployed on either side of the striker or just behind, with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery is a trio that would send shockwaves through every team in Europe.
PSG – a team which have claimed in the past they could buy Messi if he was made available. However, the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic could cause problems, after the well-documented tension between the players when the Swedish international was with Barcelona. Messi would easily adapt to the side’s system and could basically play almost anywhere for the team, in an attacking sense. Would be able to provide the guile that the French outfit lack when competing for the Champions League crown.
Chelsea – a team which boasts wealth and could purchase just about any player in the world. Currently managed by Jose Mourinho could prove difficult for Messi to move due to Mourinho’s Real Madrid connections. However, if former teammate Cesc Fabregas can move to Chelsea, then there’s no reason why Messi cannot too. Would most likely be deployed on the right-hand side of an attacking trio with Diego Costa playing centrally and Eden Hazard on the left-hand side.
Manchester City – a team similar to Chelsea in that they can basically buy whoever they want with their endless supply of money. A team that generally throws their hat in the ring when a big-name player becomes available. Messi would be seen as the player to help engineer a genuine push for Champions League success.
Manchester United – may be somewhat of an outside chance to secure his services. Could purchase him if Barcelona were willing to accept cash plus player deal. Can be deployed anywhere in the team and would certainly help with the current problems that the team are experiencing. Only issue is that United appear a team going through a long transitional period.
There are options for Messi, but at 27 he would almost certainly be looking for a team who have a genuine, if not guaranteed chance of claiming silverware. Bayern Munich, PSG and Chelsea would be the prime candidates.
It’s an intriguing topic of conversation. Personally, if Messi were to leave Barcelona then it would be potentially damaging to his legacy that he has created with the Spanish giants. This season will be an acid test for the legendary attacker, if the club fails to win any silverware for the second year in succession. Will he jump ship or remain a Barcelona man? Watch this space.
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