Remember that piece I wrote last week about how a world-record Lionel Messi to Manchester United transfer just might happen?
Well, if you’re (like me) big on reading obsessively between the lines for clues and hints that probably aren’t even there to begin with, then yes — that fantasy transfer now seems even more likely to happen.
Just a few days ago, it was reported that Messi dismissed talks of him leaving Barcelona as “lies”.
But on closer inspection, what Messi really said was: “I heard people say that my dad had spoken to Chelsea, to City. It’s all lies.”
So, that’s a no to Chelsea and Manchester City — but he didn’t say anything about not going to Manchester United (gasp!), did he?
In fact, ESPN FC only quoted him as saying he had “no intention” of going to Chelsea or Manchester City. Why so specific?
Naturally, most people at the time dismissed the quote as Messi just giving a couple of examples, when he really meant that all transfer talk is simply untrue. But not this overly-attached Manchester United fan. Nuh-uh. He’s just saying no to Chelsea and City — not United (at least not yet). So it’s still on, baby.
Then suddenly, at the Ballon d’Or awards ceremony, a mere 24 hours after that statement, Messi kinda goes back on the whole “he’s not leaving Barca” thing, saying:
I don’t know where I will be next season […] I would like to finish with Newell’s (his hometown club in Rosario). As Cristiano Ronaldo says, only God knows the future. Things in football can change overnight.”
This isn’t the first time Messi has dropped a hint that he could leave Barcelona. Just three months ago he said:
In football, things change all the time. Although I have always said I would like to stay there forever, sometimes everything does not always go as you want.”
So, what Messi’s really saying is:
1. He has no intention of going to Chelsea or Manchester City. Pfft. Chelsea and City probably wouldn’t be able to make the deal happen within Financial Fair Play rules anyway.
2. He wants to finish his career at Barcelona. Whatever! Any footballer in his situation would say the same, just so they won’t be vilified when they leave.
3. In football, everything can change overnight — meaning he could be “forced” to leave Barcelona even if he had “no intention” of doing so; ergo, he could very well be on his way to Manchester United, probably the only club who could afford him without falling foul of Financial Fair Play rules.
There are a few other reasons why United appear the only realistic option for Messi at the moment should he decide to leave, which I wrote about here. Stuart Fraser from the Daily Mail wrote about it too the very next day!
The Guardian also reported Manchester United as being “on alert” after Messi’s latest quotes.
What about Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid, you ask?
Messi was merely echoing a statement Cristiano Ronaldo had made at the Ballon d’Or awards.
When asked if he would consider leaving Real Madrid, the Ballon d’Or winner said: “Nobody knows, only God knows.”
The difference between Ronaldo and Messi, of course, is that Real Madrid are the current La Liga champions and UEFA Champions League holders. Everything’s (relatively) peachy, both on and off the pitch.
Maybe he’ll leave later on in his career. Messi, on the other hand, looks like he’ll have a real big decision to make in the coming weeks.