Could Lionel Messi Leave Barcelona?

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Lionel Messi
BARCELONA, SPAIN - JULY 08: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona runs with the ball during the Liga match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on July 08, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Even at the age of 33, Lionel Messi remains high on the list of the most wanted players for many of the world’s top clubs. There is just one major problem: an astronomical transfer fee.

Messi’s current deal has a reported €700 million buy-out clause – a figure that is far beyond the majority of clubs.

Now, Inter Milan might have found their Fairy Godmother in the shape of Pirelli. Marco Tronchetti Provera – the CEO of Pirelli – has told Italian radio station Gr Parlamento, that his company could “help” fund Messi’s transfer to Inter.

A Lionel Messi-less Barcelona?

Covid-19 Pandemic is Affecting Finances

The financial fortunes of many are, however, affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Pirelli is no exception.  For this reason, Tronchetti Provera has dismissed the idea of totally funding the transfer of Messi from Barcelona.

“Honestly, at a time like this, we’re unable to invest in sports more than we are, between Formula 1, America’s Cup and Inter,” said Tronchetti Provera.

“We have to ask (Inter Milan’s) Steven Zhang to make an effort himself. We can help, but we can’t do anything significant.”

Pirelli have been Inter Milan’s main sponsors since 1995. Presently, they pay around €9mllion per season to Inter in a shirt sponsorship deal. The name of Messi is known world-wide. His photograph features countless times in football publications per week. If he was to wear an Inter Milan shirt, this would generate a huge revenue boost for Pirelli. Publicity like this, would cost far more than €9mllion in advertising fees.

Messi Previously Linked to Inter Milan

Earlier this year, Messi was previously linked with a move to Inter Milan. Back in April 2020, former Inter Milan chief Massimo Moratti even suggested that the impact of Covid-19 might not prove a barrier to bringing the player to Italy.

Moratti told Radio Rai: ‘I don’t think it’s a forbidden dream at all.

“Maybe it wasn’t even before this (Covid-19) misfortune.”

However, it is yet unknown whether the two Italian organisations can put together a joint financial package. Even if they did, Barcelona could still reject it.

If this happened then Inter Milan would have to meet the €700 million buy-out clause. This would allow the Italian club to enter negotiations with Messi. Inter would then offer him a contract.

Of course, no transfer is possible if a player refuses to move.

Realistically, Inter Milan will have to match Messi’s current Barcelona wages. Understandably, very few people know his actual salary. Quoted figures range between €32 million to €90 million per year. Barcelona’s players – including Messi – have recently accepted a wage reduction to assist the Spanish club through the pandemic. This could help make a deal more affordable.

No matter what his true salary is, the one definite is that the whole deal will cost any club a considerable fortune. Most clubs do not have access to these kinds of funds. Their only hope is that Messi either agrees to lower wages or Barcelona accept a much smaller transfer fee.

Messi’s Barcelona Contract Talks

Messi is the final year of his contract at Barcelona. He can leave the Spanish club for free should a new contract not be agreed. Therefore, Barcelona must assess the potential financial rewards of keeping Messi for one final season against the cost of him departing for free.

Several days ago, it was reported that he had “indefinitely stalled” on new contract talks with Barcelona.

Ironically, when Messi signed his current contract in 2017, there was a release clause. This clause allowed him to leave Barcelona for free this summer, providing he wished to do so. The fact that this clause expired at the end of May 2020, led many to think that Messi was definitely staying at Barcelona until 2021.

However, it has also been reported over the past few months that Messi is unhappy at Barcelona. Yet, this conflicts with the expiring of his release clause, as he could have just left had he wanted to. Some commentators suggest that he intends staying at the Nou Camp beyond 2021 and the delay is merely to increase his “bargaining power” in contract talks.

Could Lionel Messi Head to the Premier League?

For many years, it has been hoped that Messi would one day grace the English Premier League. Manchester City are continually mentioned as a possible destination. This would see him reunite with his former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola. 

At present, City are not guaranteed entry to the 2020/21 Champions League. They are appealing against a two-year ban from all European competition run by UEFA. However, Guardiola is confident that City’s ban will be overturned by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS). A final decision is likely by July 13th.

At the end of the Premier League season, only the top four clubs gain entry to the Champions League. A top-four position is almost guaranteed for Manchester City. However, they would forfeit their entry should they lose their appeal. If City lose their appeal, then the club finishing in fifth place would take their place.

Messi is currently vying with Cristiano Ronaldo to be remembered as the most talented player of all-time. Statistics often mean more than memories. Messi is the second-highest goalscorer – behind Ronaldo – in the history of the Champions League. He has also won one less title than his rival.

Therefore, Messi will not join a club who is not playing Champions League football next season. Inter Milan are assured of a place. This could give them an advantage. Likewise, Barcelona have also qualified for next season’s competition.

Other Interested Clubs

Coincidentally, Messi could even play for another Inter named club. They are Inter Miami of America’s MLS. A transfer to Inter Miami, who are part-owned by David Beckham, is not as far-fetched as it might first sound.

This would not be the first time that the two Inter clubs have fought over a prized asset. A dispute over the “Inter” trademark exists. The Italian Inter filed a US Patent and Trademark application in 2014. This was several years before the existence of Inter Miami.

Although it is probable that Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona, this transfer story still has the potential to be the football transfer story of Summer 2020.

 

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