I love Messi.
How often have we seen him jink his way past a couple of helpless defenders, ride another tackle and effortlessly stroke the ball in to the goal? As a player I believe he’s on a different level to Ronaldo.
Well, until the start of last season I would have said that.
His 2013/14 campaign was a success by most means, but by Lionel Messi standards it was a quiet season. A major stumbling block that disrupted his season were the injuries he suffered. He missed two months from November to January, his third injury of the season. Despite ending up with 28 goals in La Liga he was not able to fire Barcelona to the title, or claim the Golden Boot. Many people thought he was saving himself for the World Cup.
Fast forward to the World Cup and a Messi inspired Argentina progress from a mediocre group. In a competition where they reached the final he claimed four man of the match awards and was named the player of the tournament. Throughout the competition he seemed subdued but still managed to put in top quality performances. He didn’t have the mesmerising effect he did at Barcelona in seasons past but, crucially, appeared like a vision at the important moments to score for Argentina.
Now, In January, Messi is linked with Chelsea. Why does this story refuse to disappear and why does the move make sense?
One of the most revered managers in world football managed Barcelona in a four year period where the Catalan club won fourteen major honours. Pep Guardiola gave an interview in March 2014 where he said:
“I found it more and more difficult to motivate myself and to motivate the team. That is when you know it is time to walk away.”
Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or three times under the former Spanish midfielder. Messi has won only one since, which came in the immediate season after Guardiola’s departure.
What makes Pep Guardiola’s admission that motivating both himself and the team was becoming difficult is that his departure begins the slow decline of Lionel Messi. Granted Barcelona did have a magnificent season in 2012/13. They accumulated 100 points in La Liga with Messi scoring 60 and assisting 16 goals in all competitions that season, but numerous changes at the helm and several injuries have hampered this phenomenon.
This makes me think that a move to Chelsea does make sense. In the four years that Barcelona won all round them the club was stable. The manager was a constant, the players at the peak of their powers all came through the famed La Masia academy with him and the club was not in turmoil.
Since 2012 when everything was rosy the club have had 3 managers, the club have been embroiled in a scandal over the actual signing fee of Brazilian golden boy Neymar from Santos and now the club have a transfer embargo lasting until 2016 which resulted in the sacking of Andoni Zubizarreta and further resignation of icon Carlos Puyol.
This suggests that off the field matters may be affecting Messi. He needs the consistency that only Chelsea can offer him. Of all the suitors for one of the greatest players of all time Chelsea is really the only viable option. Manchester City and PSG have both gone over the FIFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) limit and a major re-balancing of the books would need to take place to afford such a deal. Furthermore, Jose Mourinho is the best manager in the world and if anybody can get the Argentinean firing on all cylinders again it’s him.
Maybe a change of scenery would do Messi good? People who were close to him once are coming out of the woodwork with many theories of why he should go, why he should stay and where his unhappiness is coming from. Truthfully, we don’t know explicitly that he is unhappy and if this indeed is all just press speculation. Either way this story will rage on for time to come until the magician does decide to stay at his spiritual home or make a disappearing act and quit Barcelona.