Lionel Messi has told Barcelona he wants to leave the club after almost 20-years at Camp Nou and one team, in particular, has been linked with signing one of the greatest goalscorers the game has ever seen.
Barcelona confirmed on Tuesday the Argentine sent a document expressing his desire to activate a release clause that would end his contract and allow him to leave for free this summer with Manchester City currently 1.83* favourites to sign him.
The announcement comes in the wake of Barcelona’s humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, one of the worst defeats in the player’s career and in the club’s history.
That loss also capped a difficult season for Barcelona – the first without a trophy since 2007-08 – and ignited one of their worst crises ever.
But what could be bad news for the Catalans could be music to the ears of Manchester City fans after seeing their club finish 18 points behind Liverpool in the Premier League while also crashing out in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Since making the move to Barcelona’s La Masia academy at the age of 13, Messi has become one of the game’s greatest ever players, scoring over 700 goals in just under two decades in La Liga.
Between 2009 and 2019, he scored more than 40 goals in each season – meaning that over a ten season span, he scored an astonishing 523 goals at an average of over 50 a season.
In 2012, he fired in an incredible 91 goals for club and country, doing it in just 69 matches. That’s an average of a goal every 68 minutes.
Back in 2011/12 he broke the record for most goals in a club season with a whopping 73 strikes in all competitions, 50 of them coming in LaLiga, breaking Gerd Muller record for most goals in a single season with 67 for Bayern Munich in 1972/73.
His 444 league goals also make him the Spanish top flight’s all-time leading goalscorer, some way ahead of Ronaldo in second on 311 and Telmo Zarra third with 251 – if that wasn’t enough, he also holds the record as LaLiga’s top assist provider in history with 183.
But it’s not just domestically as Messi has found the net 114 times in the Champions League, while also becoming the fastest player to get to a century of strikes in Europe’s premier club competition, achieving the feat it in just 123 games.
Meanwhile, for his country, he remains Argentina’s top goalscorer with 70 goals, some 18 ahead of Gabriel Batistuta and a tally that is double that of the great Diego Maradona.
With David Silva departed, Fernandinho now 35, Sergio Agüero in the twilight of his career Messi would certainly have his work cut out in a City team in need of more than just a few tweeks.
But he would also have the opportunity to transform the landscape of the club and a huge say in where the team could go moving forward.
The serial disappointments in the Champions League in recent years and the huge gap between the Blues and Liverpool could be seen by some as something of a poison chalice, but it’s also an opportunity to become a club legend.
Yes, a more frenetic and physical English game might prove too much for a 33-year-old who has only experienced the slower, more studious club football of Spain.
But it would also provide Lionel Messi the opportunity to be reunited with Pep Guardiola, under whom at Barcelona from 2008-12 the Argentinian produced some of the most scintillating form of his career.
Just think of what he could do teaming up with the creative talent of Kevin De Bruyne, not to mention the partnerships he could form with Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, who is yet to convince.
Well, City certainly believe they have a chance of making fantasy a reality by taking Messi from his spiritual football home to a new challenge in England in what would be the signing of the Premier League era if not beyond.
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