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"This way to the Etihad, lads"
Manchester City supporters may still be spluttering on their breakfast cereals after a Sunday newspaper report claimed Lionel Messi moving to the Etihad Stadium should not be ruled out.
Rob Shepherd of the Daily Mail was the man responsible for creating a stir among City fans, and almost certainly a fair few Barcelona supporters too.
In his weekly Football Grapevine column, the writer claimed:
Lionel Messi to Manchester City next summer?
It sounds like idle speculation.
But I understand that after next summer’s World Cup finals such a move is not beyond possibility.
There is increasing talk in Spain that Messi, who has struggled for form (by his own stellar standards) and fitness this season, is becoming stressed at the pressure he is put under by Barcelona to play when not fully fit.
An interesting scenario, definitely. But the reality may be somewhat different.
His current injury notwithstanding, Messi is contracted to the La Liga champions until 2018 and was viewed as having a crucial role in the appointment of Gerardo Martino as head coach this summer, as Sky Sports reported, although the player denied any part in his arrival.
On Thursday, Jack De Menezes of The Independent rubbished suggestions that there was a rift between the player and the club over the treatment of his current injury.
So, maybe there is something in the water here? No, not really.
Shepherd adds that the figures involved in such a deal would be mind-boggling:
It is impossible to speculate transfer fee and salary figures.
They would obviously be immense and despite City’s resources such a move would be complicated by Financial Fair Play.
But a complex playing/commercial/image rights deal with Nike assuming a major role could get around regulations.
And I understand several super agents and brokers are actively looking at piecing together a deal.
Messi to City? Yes, it sounds nuts.
Believability Meter: Low to Exceptionally Low
Messi moving to Manchester City would cause an unprecedented explosion in football—such is the interest in the Argentine superstar.
But why would the player want to leave Barcelona, where he is worshipped by the fans and has enjoyed so much success?
Any departure from the Camp Nou for Messi would have to be to a club with Champions League and regular success behind them, surely?