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A LOOK AT LA LIGA

A Messi situation

Could a reunion with Pep Guardiola be on the cards?
Could a reunion with Pep Guardiola be on the cards? / AFP
  • Does the Barcelona superstar really want to leave the Camp Nou? Or is he just flexing his muscles? Besides, who could afford him anyway?

A seasoned manager once told me that the first thing he does when taking on a new job is seek out the most disruptive and influential character in the changing room, make an example of him in week one and bring him back into the fold the following week.

I suspect Ronald Koeman had a cup of tea with this fellow and thought "I will use that one when I get my next club job". Cue his meeting with Lionel Messi.

When the new Barcelona coach told the club captain that his previous privileges were about to be curtailed, the Argentinian's agent was straight onto the fax machine.

Messi's "people" quickly informed the Camp Nou hierarchy that the famous number 10 shirt can have a new occupant in the future.

The epicentre of this footballing earthquake is in Barcelona - but the aftershocks are felt everywhere, and this promises to be just the beginning.

It's well-publicised that there's a clause in Messi's contract allowing him to leave on a free transfer at the end of every season. While Barcelona point to 31 May which is written in black and white, Messi's management say that nothing is black and white in this world of Covid.

Whether he departs or not depends on the legality of that clause. It's the difference between a free transfer or buy-out of 700 million euros. Oh, plus his one-million-per-week wages, agents fees and any signing-on fee.

There's a finite number of clubs who could afford the wages, if not the fee. Pep Guardiola was a mentor in Messi's development and English fans would love to see if he can do it on a wet Wednesday in Stoke.

Inter Milan is another club linked, mainly because Messi Sr has recently invested in property in the city. Maybe Juventus will make an audacious bid to pair him with Cristiano Ronaldo?

Another option is Paris Saint Germain. They caused a stir by exercising the 222-million-euro clause in Neymar's contract and do love a superstar. It's not inconceivable that a straight swap could be done; that way, nobody misses out financially.

But does Messi really want to leave or is he just flexing his muscles? He's quit the Argentinian national team on several occasions but always turns up for the next major tournament.

In recent years, Sergio Ramos threatened to leave for Manchester United, Luis Suárez was insistent he was leaving Liverpool for Arsenal and Steven Gerrard was all set for Chelsea. None of those moves happened as the clubs negotiated.

It's a little like the time Wayne Rooney sounded off about the lack of quality signings at Manchester United. There's more to this.

Messi, and the global fan base, can't wait for the spring elections to bring a new president and coach. He wants action now. It may mean a constitutional change but that's a small price to keep the club's greatest ever player.

The club could reach a compromise and sell him. It would shift the problem and clear the estimated 300-million-euro debt in one go but the board would be chased out of town.

Maybe the only solution is to make Messi the first ever player-president?