Why Chelsea do not need Lionel Messi
A look at the current situation at Barcelona and why the Blues do not need the Argentine forward
6 January 2015 – mark the day; it was the day Lionel Messi started following Chelsea Football Club on Instagram. And not just the club, but two former Atletico Madrid players as well, namely Thibaut Courtois and Filipe Luis. Moreover, it is believed that he’s even started following Manchester City.
So what does that mean according to the rumour mill? One: he wants to leave Barcelona. Two: he wants to join Chelsea. Three: the Blues better do business quickly else Manchester City are going to pounce. That’s the power of social media – one suggestive move, and all hell breaks loose.
But coming to think of the situation with a little reasoning, it seems unlikely that the Argentine would leave Barcelona at all. Perhaps he’s simply taken inspiration from Wayne Rooney and wants a pay rise!
Here’s a step-by-step look at the situation.
Cesc Fabregas speaks about Messi
Towards the end of December, there was talk of Chelsea bidding £200 million for the Argentine. Fabregas was quoted as saying, "I wish! Why not? I'd love that to happen. I'd be all for it. As a Barca man, I believe that Messi deserves to retire at Barca for all that he has given the club. He is a legend that has changed Barca history. But as his team-mate and friend, without doubt I'd love to have Leo by my side. This season Barca are Messi and ten others. Messi has saved his team on many occasions."
This was just an honest opinion, coming from a man who was brought up in the Barcelona academy. After all, who wouldn’t want a team-mate like Messi? But now, this is being used to fuel speculation further. Fabregas has reportedly been given the ‘task’ to convince Messi to move to Stamford Bridge.
Surely, the Spaniard hadn’t signed up to play negotiator!
Mourinho denies being interested
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho responded a day later, denying the possibility of acquiring Messi, owing to Financial Fair Play regulations.
“No, I have no chance of that. Because at this moment there is Financial Fair Play and with the Financial Fair Play we have to follow certain rules, certain numbers and we obviously have no conditions to buy, as you say a ‘super amazing player’ paid with ‘super amazing numbers’. That, Chelsea at this moment, cannot do.”
That response should have put the rumours to rest for good. But we have seen clubs like PSG circumvent FFP rules in the past, which is believed to contain some loopholes.
Chelsea have a partial solution to this, because kit sponsors Adidas are rumoured to be willing to pay a part of the transfer fee.
Barcelona are now in a ‘crisis’
The Catalan club have sacked their sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, and Carles Puyol left in the aftermath. The club lost their most recent La Liga match against Real Sociedad, which Messi did not start. The club have been banned from signing players in 2015, and last summer’s signings haven’t worked out as expected. Luis Suarez has scored just one league goal so far, while Thomas Vermaelen has started just once.
To top it all, there is apparently an ongoing rift between manager Luis Enrique and some senior players like Neymar, Gerard Pique, and most importantly, Leo Messi.
Against Real Sociedad, Neymar and Messi were left on the bench. In what looked like a conversation behind the manager’s back, Neymar suggested Messi start warming up as soon as they fell behind. Messi did come on at half-time, but couldn’t alter the result. Enrique has supposedly lost the backing of his squad and has two games to save his job.
Then, Messi, a role-model, didn’t turn up for training, which was watched by thousands of kids. That made the situation more uncertain. The club have stated gastroenteritis as the reason for his absence.
So here we have one of the two greatest players in the world today, who missed training due to illness, and took the time out to follow Chelsea FC.
It is clear that in a month where big transfers are a rarity, this is a case of making a mountain out of a molehill. Barcelona discovered Messi when he was a kid. They promised to treat his growth deficiency syndrome if he signed for them. They nurtured him from being a promising young player to the best in the world.
Messi owes a lot to Barcelona. Both have given each other everything, and mundane issues like a contract, or being dropped for a game should not break this relationship. As Fabregas said, given Messi’s achievements, he deserves to retire at Barcelona.
At the moment, Messi means Barcelona. That shouldn’t, and will not change. And that’s because Chelsea do not need him (for this season at least), for the following reasons.
Why Chelsea do not need to sign Messi now
1. It disturbs the balance
The competition at Chelsea is so fierce that World Cup winner and super-sub Andre Schurrle is hardly getting any time on the pitch. Mohamed Salah can’t even make the bench regularly while Loic Remy, like Schurrle, is stuck on the bench.
The same can be said of Ramires and Mikel. Among the first names on the team-sheet last season, both have found playing time hard to come by owing to the perfection of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic on a weekly basis. Time and again, Mourinho has spoken about the ‘perfect balance’ within his squad, and it is hard to argue against.
To add to that, Eden Hazard has really exploded this season, scoring eight and assisting four in the league so far, and having also improved defensively compared to last season. He has averaged one defensive action per game and won 61% of his aerial duels.
Adding another player will definitely kill the balance, and prompt players that the manager values a lot, to leave.
2. Work rate
Mourinho is known to extract defensive work from every player on the pitch, irrespective of their position and stature (as Juan Mata found out). And then occasionally, Jose is known to park the bus in difficult away games and look to pinch a goal on the counter.
In such a situation, would Messi, the greatest player in the world, sacrifice his instincts and get into his box to make clearances? Having played a patient, possession based passing game for ages, would he agree with tactics like playing on the break?
If his work rate doesn’t match Mourinho’s standards, will he be dropped? He certainly will. Mourinho is the only manager in the world who can bench and then sell anyone, and still keep the fans on his side.
3. Position and style
Coming back to the perfect balance of the squad, Chelsea have a lot of players who can cover multiple positions. Ramires can play in central midfield and on the wide right, Cesc has experienced playing every midfield position at Barcelona, Remy can play either as a striker or as a wide attacking midfielder. The same goes for Schurrle, Salah, and even Diego Costa to some extent.
The main man for Chelsea is undoubtedly Eden Hazard. Cutting in from the left, he has been simply unstoppable and has been the Blues’ go-to man this season. He is 23, always speaks of improving, aims to be the best player in the world, and is being given full freedom to fulfil his desires. Having seen it all, and being four years older, will Messi bring in the same hunger?
Let’s assume he does. Let’s assume the world record transfer fee gets doubled, giving Messi automatic right to start every game. Who drops out?
Costa is on 14 league goals after 20 games. Hazard cannot be left out. Oscar does as much defensive work as two Messis put together and still comes up with goals and assists, while fellow Brazilian Willian offers tireless running and agility.
Having adapted to how the manager wants them to play, it would be a gross injustice to simply drop any of them. And let’s not even think of dropping Matic and Fabregas.
The next question would be what Messi’s true position is. Should he be played as a wide striker cutting in (but that’s what Hazard does), or behind the striker? Or should he be the striker? Wait, a false striker? How amused would Diego Costa be with that!
Lionel Messi will be wasted at Chelsea. The Blues do not need him, and he is not a ‘Mourinho-type’ player in the slightest. If the transfer were to happen, it would mean the following:
1. Chelsea demonstrating their craze in the market, paying an unbelievable amount of money.
2. Chelsea signing another attacker in January (we all know how that has worked out in the past).
3. Chelsea incurring the wrath of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.
4. Roman Abramovich getting poorer by £200 million, spending on a player who cannot get any better.
5. Messi tarnishing his legacy at Barcelona.
And lastly, if he signs, can Messi do it on a cold, wet night at Stoke?