These days, the State of Messi is absurd. It is the worst part of the entorno as a player becomes, depending on who the person blabbing:
— Someone headed to England, just you wait …
— Like a bauble nobody deserves, so everyone worries about losing it
— An avatar for the Revolution
— A self-centered brat
Every statement is parsed. The day after … the VERY day after he said on Barça TV that he has no interest or intention of leaving Barcelona, he responded to a question posed at a Ballon d’Or event, a query about his eventual future with a reply that featured some existential uncertainty … and it started all over again, most dimwittedly of all, from many of the same culers who breathed sighs of relief after his Barça TV declarations.
Meanwhile the player himself, fresh off a performance that should have left precisely zero doubt about his happiness and commitment to the team and city, had to again explain what he meant. All Messi wants to do what he always does, which is strive to play the game of football better than anyone else alive, even better than himself.
It’s all the crap AROUND Messi, the headlines, speculation, Twitter rants and hooraw, all from a world that is more interested in being silly than admitting a simple fact:
The idea of Lionel Messi leaving Barça is fundamentally illogical, so much so that it’s worth a giggle more than a post. But because the idea seems to be persistent in parts of the universe, let’s have a nice, logical look at all the factors. What’s more, all of the Messi talk is getting away from the point, which is what is good for Barça? As someone hopelessly in love with this football club, that is always my first question.
Puyol retired not because he wanted to, but because he knew that it would be good for Barça. So much talk seems to center around Messi: what Messi wants, Neymar vs Messi, is Messi happy, who has mistreated Messi today … and it’s all so much nonsense, because Messi wants the same thing that any culer should want, which is for Barça to be as strong as it can be. All the rest is noise.
— Messi has said that he isn’t leaving Barça.
— His father has said that he isn’t leaving Barça.
— The club has said that he isn’t leaving Barça.
— The conditions don’t exist that would make it possible for him to leave Barça.
So let’s get busy, starting with …
“The board is going to make Messi leave. They want to sell him.” The reasons given for this are numerous, ranging from they don’t support the player during various smear campaigns, to they aren’t taking the effort to build a winning team around him, etc. There is even the latest adaptation, they want to sell him and make Neymar No. 1 star.
Messi shrugs off criticism as he used to shrug off tacklers to score goals, so do you reckon it matters enough for a player to uproot his life and start over in another city? Messi has said that he doesn’t care about criticism. What’s more, he doesn’t get criticism at Barça! He’s in greater danger of someone’s head going up his butt when he stops too abruptly than taking any significant criticism at all, much less to a degree that would make him take his glittering ball and leave. Paranoiacs mistake analysis for criticism. Let them.
Most supporters and pundits even go out of their way to defend Messi from the criticism that he isn’t getting, opting for a pre-emptive assault against a non-existent beast. So which is it: does he not care about criticism, or is he the most Sensitive Man Alive? Can’t be both.
“They aren’t building a winning team around him.” Nope. Nor should they be. Neymar, Suarez, Rakitic and the other transfers are all aimed at strengthening the team. The idea of building a winning team around any player vexes me because if that player goes away, you have a driverless car. When Messi was gone for 8 weeks last season, Neymar and Sanchez exploded. That made me happy as it should any culer, because the idea is to build a winning team that can deal with everything, even its best player being injured. Barça has made an effort at building that team this year, though we don’t know to what extent and won’t for some time yet, despite the howls about what Enrique is doing and how he’s doing it.
If Messi was going to leave because the team wasn’t being built as this winning juggernaut around him, he already knew that when Guardiola called for transfers and didn’t get them. And he sure as hell should have known it when Vilanova called for transfers and didn’t get them. Hell, they wouldn’t even buy Martino a change of polo shirts. If that motivation is sufficient to make a player leave in the belief that he isn’t going to win at a club, then I’m not sure what has to hit Messi over the head before this past summer to convince him that the board is more interested in the stadium project than the team.
Even as we dismiss both those factors, comes the persistent rumor that (shudder!) “The board wants to sell Messi.” They probably do, because it makes perfect sense to sell an iconic player who is adored by supporters just before elections, if you’re interested in winning those elections. That is as logical as can be. Our board is a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them. To believe that they want to sell Messi would be believe that not only are they stupid, but stupid enough to take a loaded gun, point it at their foot and pull the trigger.
The club has come out to say that Messi won’t be sold unless Messi wants to go, which brings us to the next round …
Does Messi want to go?
There are many reasons for a player to want to leave, and let’s look at them in the Messi context:
— More money. No matter how much he wanted, Barça would offer him more.
— Trophies. He has a pile of them. Let’s presume Barça is about to undergo a trophy drought to rival that of the odds that you’d see a waterfall in the desert. It would take amazing foresight to conclude that a team with the talent that Barça has at its disposal is not going to win anything anytime soon.
— Building a team around him. See above.
— Personal dissatisfaction with some aspect of the club. Okay. What could that be for a player who doesn’t care about anything except his son and PlayStation? Defense against the drug allegations or tax dodging? That ship has sailed, and he’s still at Barça. Unloved and unappreciated? We should pause again to laugh. Those evil board members making him feel unappreciated? Only if you assume that otherwise intelligent men are astoundingly stupid.
— The rain in Spain. Tax laws and assorted mean people. Come on. Really? No. Seriously. Really? Is this a grown man, or a child? If Messi is a grown man, then stop treating him like a child. “They said bad things about me. I’m taking my ball and going home! (sniff! sniff!)” is being treated with plausibility by a world that should know better. Messi isn’t a supermodel who in a fit of drunken delusion, agreed to go on a date with a shlub. Stop acting like he is. “We don’t deserve him.” Yes, we do. And we know that because he is here and wants to stay.
Could another team say to Messi, “We will build a team around you that will rival that of Guardiola’s Barça?” Sure. But there’s a problem with that, which brings us to our next complexity …
Who will buy Messi?
Messi’s transfer fee won’t be a penny below the full 250m fee and then some, nor should it be. Hell, 250m is cheap, really. But who can roll with that kind of buying power? Chelsea? Not with FFP, not after the club has finally gotten into the black. PSG? Qatar oil money, and there’s plenty of it. But there’s still FFP. RM? Sure. Flo Flo would just get a bank loan. But does anyone think even for a moment that Messi would play there? And who would have to or want to head for the exits to make the deal happen? Bayern? No. Not for that kind of money. Citeh? Aw, hell yeah! More oil money.
But Messi is leaving because he wants to win, right? We have to assume that because if he’s leaving because people are saying mean stuff about him, he clearly hasn’t seen the BritPress in a feeding frenzy. He can SMS with Baloteli about that.
So let’s assume sporting reasons, and start with Chelsea. Mourinho has a great project going, and winning in the Prem is something that would appeal to Messi, yes? What would have to happen for Messi to go to Chelsea? Well, you jettison Drogba, Fabregas says “Not again,” Hazard sees constrained activity levels and who knows what Oscar is going to do.
This is, mind you, assuming Messi is still That Messi. Nobody has considered whether he in fact is. So let’s say he isn’t, and you spend 250m for a 10. Is that good value, and is what Mourinho would have to do to the team he is starting to build, worth it?
PSG is a non-starter. They can afford him, but play in Ligue 1. Giant fish, small pond, and moving Messi to PSG wouldn’t be enough to win a Champions League. Plus a declining Ibrahimovic is already there. Yes, PSG could sell him, which leaves them with Cavani, Lavezzi, Pastore and Messi? Do you, if you’re Messi, hitch your wagon to that, or Suarez and Neymar?
City? That’s actually the most logical suggestion. Sell Toure Yaya, who allegedly wants to go anyhow, we know because media outlets have told us so (“My birthday cake!”), slot in a more traditional DM and turn Messi loose as your 10. He plays with Aguero and Dzeko. Silva probably asks for a transfer, along with a few other players, not to mention the ones you would need to sell to get right with FFP, but you have it: your Premiership team built around Messi. Yet there again, if he wants to win, Aguero and Dzeko vs Neymar and Suarez.
The other issue is that spending 250m for a single player would gut the transfer budget of any team — even one that has to pretend to pay a bit of attention to FFP — for some time, putting that team in essentially the same situation that Barça is in. So why move?
Should anyone buy Messi?
Aha. The 250 million dollar question. Messi isn’t That Messi, and won’t be. But this Messi is still the best player in the game by a fair sight, I don’t care how many goals Ronaldo scores. People talk of him moving with the alacrity and acceleration of the past, but they’re kidding. The reason Messi could score goals like before he did was because he had acceleration, quickness, strength and phenomenal balance all combined in an otherworldly combination. Messi is 27 years old, and has played enough games to make him 30+ in football years. He’s also fast approaching that time when a game based on the kinds of gifts that he used to display almost for fun, will of necessity change.
General thought is that he is going to become a phenomenal 10. Is any 10 alive worth 250m? A 10 will set up goals, a 10 will get you goals. But that 250m player is the one that scored 90+ goals in a calendar year. No team in its right mind would pay 250m for a 10, even one with the potential to do what Messi could do as a 10. He is a brilliant passer, but there are other brilliant passers, who wouldn’t cost 250m. He’s the best passer in the game right now, but are those passes worth 250m, when you have to buy a slug to try and convert them because you’re broke?
No team, even the wealthiest, would pay 250m for a 28-year-old 10 with about a million miles on his legs. It’s easy to say you want to buy Messi in theory, but in reality, suitors would have to ask some very complex questions, most of them probably ending in shrugs and uncomfortable glances around the meeting table.
So now what?
Calm down, and don’t fall for hysteria from anyone trying to read tea leaves, hysterical culers in social media or journalists who should know better. “Messi location/happiness” headlines draw clicks and eyes, even as they come from people who should know better, whose powers of deductive reasoning are no less that some guy sitting in Chicago, banging away on a keyboard.
You should be secure in the knowledge that a Messi sale doesn’t stand up to a good, hard look. Those who want to believe, want to be convinced that smart men are in fact very, very stupid, will ignore logic. They will believe that Messi can be that magical player again, once he leaves the albratros of a team and board that is holding him back. But that is the blind side of idolatry, and you shouldn’t fall for that any more than you should the tabloid fabrications of a Daily Somethingorother.
What you should do most of all is enjoy him without worry. He is an extraordinary player who is fun to watch, as most genius players are when a generation is lucky enough to get one. And that fun, that joy, should be enough.