Lionel Messi was presented with the option of joining Chelsea during the summer after Adidas, the player’s sponsor, offered to pay half of his £210 million buyout clause, according to reports in Spain.
Barcelona-based newspaper Mundo Deportivo suggests Messi could have ended up at one of three destinations, but had no intention of leaving Barcelona, as reported by Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail:
According to Mundo Deportivo, Adidas saw the opportunity to prise him away from Barca – and effectively from Nike who sponsor the Catalan giants – and move him to one of their three main European clubs: Chelsea, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.
The pro-Barcelona daily says that Messi’s representatives were made aware of Adidas’ proposal and that they then informed the club, who were also told Messi had no intention of leaving the club.
Had one of the aforementioned European giants drummed up the cash to match Adidas’ offer, Messi could have been the subject of a historic transfer.
A move to Chelsea would have been testing for Messi and current Stamford Bridge boss Jose Mourinho, who was angry with the Argentinian forward’s behaviour during the Blues’ Champions League loss to La Blaugrana in 2006.
Mourinho accused Messi of "theatre" that night, per ESPN, but could have landed the four-time Ballon d’Or winner in a blockbuster deal that would have rocked the world of football.
The 26-year-old may also have ended up at Real Madrid, a switch that is made more realistic when you consider Luis Figo’s decision to exchange Camp Nou for the Bernabeu in 2000.
Los Blancos president Florentino Perez instead plumped for the £85 million-rated Gareth Bale, perhaps a lofty sum if Messi was available for half of his £210 million clause.
Alongside these two deals, Adidas reportedly offered Messi the chance to join up with old manager Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich. The German champions also spent lavishly this summer, landing Mario Gotze from Borussia Dortmund for £32 million.
Which club would best suit Lionel Messi?
Messi currently has 12 goals in 12 games for Barcelona this season, per WhoScored, but hasn't netted in his last three appearances for Gerardo Martino's side.
The newly installed manager has defended criticism of his player, per ESPN, suggesting injury is to blame for his goalless run.
Contemplating Messi's potential move away from the Camp Nou is extremely difficult.
This is a player who has defined the club's modern era with an endless array of goals, world records and scintillating performances, helping to maintain Barcelona's domestic and European success.
He recently broke Gerd Muller's goalscoring record, netting 86 goals in 2012, per The Telegraph. Alongside this, he also captured another record by scoring consecutively against every La Liga team, as reported by another Jenson report for the Daily Mail.
When the icon retires he will go down as arguably the greatest to have ever played the game, so it is likely Barcelona were as reluctant to sell as Messi was to leave.