Tonight we’ve got one Hell of a crazy rumour for you, one that isn’t, actually, as crazy as you might think it is. Are Chelsea on the brink of one of the greatest transfer coups in the history of football, a deal that would have been considered unthinkable until very recently?
In short, are they on the verge of securing the services of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, the greatest player ever to pull on football boots and play the game?
This does sound like a flight of fancy, but it’s not so crazy when you consider it.
What’s sparked this rumour is that Roman Abramovich has been spotted entertaining Messi’s father on his luxury yacht. This report appeared in The Sun earlier, and it’s been poo-pooed by a number of people who really ought to know better because this isn’t actually as far-fetched as a lot of people would have you believe.
Messi’s reputation in Spain is no longer what it was. A court has sentenced him to 21 months in jail over his tax affairs. He will not do time – Spanish law doesn’t like to send people to prison when they’ve been given a sentence that’s under two years – but you do get the impression that it’s no longer his favourite place to be.
One club players are rare, because the same scenery can become soul-crushing after a while. There’s also the moral aspect of this; Barcelona is more than just a football club. It’s a social institution and although Lionel is a favourite son there will, without doubt, be people inside Barca who will believe he is now a stain on their reputation.
If you think that doesn’t matter, you are insane.
But what’s most interesting is the character of the Chelsea chairman. He’s a man who considers second best to be worthless. He has had no hesitation in dispatching managers who have let him down; who else would have gotten rid of Jose Mourinho not once but twice?
This guy does not suffer fools – or even most other people – gladly.
One of the recurring themes I come back to in articles these days is how it’s Manchester and not London which is the centre of the football universe in England these days; the two biggest bosses in the world have washed up there, and their rivalry and that of their clubs will focus attention like no other issue in the game.
To a man like Abramovich that, itself, will be unacceptable.
He, and Chelsea, need something to compete with that, something that doesn’t just secure box office status but wipes away every other story at a stroke.
Nothing would do that better than the capture of the global football icon Messi. It would focus more attention on the EPL than ever before, and represent a marketing coup unlike any the game has ever seen. It would blow everything else away, and make the Premiership the most watched, the most sought after, football product out there.
All that is great for the neutrals, but it will realign the battlefield and make Chelsea the favourites to secure glory, in spite of all the glitz and glamour of the Mourinho – Guardiola axis.
Of course, if Messi is available don’t rule out one, or both, of those clubs making a similar move but Abramovich has the upper hand. He has got in first. He’s opened the dialogue and planted the seed. A move to London would not be without its charms.
If Messi does feel like his adopted homeland is turning on him, the chances are good that he’ll seek a move. Who outside of England could afford to buy him? PSG perhaps, but that’s essentially a one team league. The same applies to Germany, where Bayern Munich would be attractive but the competition would not be as fierce.
He would inevitably look at England and if he did then only a handful of clubs would stand a chance of tempting him and securing the deal. Chelsea is undoubtedly one of them.
As crazy as this sounds on the surface, it does make a whole lot of sense.
If Abramovich can pull this off, what a season lies in front of us.