What if: Lionel Messi ends up in China
Football has been full of mysteries over the past few years, from Leicester City’s remarkable title triumph to Paul Pogba becoming the most expensive player of all time but one of the sport’s greatest enigmas is how Chinese football has become so prosperous.
The nation’s renowned ‘Super League’ has lured talents from across the globe with its big bucks and, although it’s not unheard of for teams outside of Europe to snap up big names by virtue of big wage packages, these Chinese clubs are bringing in players at the peak of their respective careers, not at the end.
The division has already captured the likes of Jackson Martinez, Axel Witsel, Hulk and Oscar. Meanwhile, Carlos Tevez attracted the attention of Shanghai Shenhua, who signed the Argentinian on a £615,000 per week contract, a figure dwarfing the biggest weekly wages in Europe’s top leagues.
Whilst it’s intriguing and refreshing to see a league outside of Europe gain so much media attention and throw their hat into the ring, many football personalities have been quick to warn of its dangers, with Arsene Wenger especially concerned. "That's the danger, that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe. You cannot compete with that," fears the Frenchman.
It’s undoubtedly one of the hottest talking points in the game at present and fans across the globe are anticipating the next big move to China with excitement, but what if that next move was made by one of football’s all-time greatest? What if Lionel Messi moved to the Chinese Super League...
#1 Neymar would become Barcelona’s new poster boy
It’s difficult to engage in a conversation about Barcelona without mentioning Messi; the two are intertwined as one. The Argentine has been at the Catalan club for well over a decade, having scored more than 300 goals in his time there, but the 29-year-old is yet to extend his current contract with the Spaniards which expires in 2018.
Messi claims he wants to see out his existing deal before taking action on his future but the more cynical football fan would view this as a warning that the forward could see out his career elsewhere, perhaps China. The Argentine is currently the core of the continent’s most lethal front-line trio – MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) and if he were to depart, which would be next year at the earliest, a greater deal of responsibility would be placed on the other two.
The Brazilian Neymar has achieved tremendous things at a relatively young age, having scored almost twice as many goals in his career so far (280) as Cristiano Ronaldo had at the same age (155). His composure and confidence on the ball make spectators forget that at the end he’s still a young boy and he has all the ingredients to supersede Messi as the club’s ‘poster boy’.
Neymar has flair that is superior to any other footballer on the planet, an excellent goal-scoring record and a strong likeability, as underpinned by his influence in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup campaign. If Messi were to leave for China, Barcelona fans would be hurt and looking for a player to confide in; Neymar fits the role perfectly and, if anything, Messi moving would be greatly beneficial for the 25-year-old.