Pep Guardiola’s new two-year deal at Manchester City points to one thing… Lionel Messi is coming to the Premier League.
Pep Guardiola signed a new deal at Manchester City on Thursday until 2023
Lionel Messi still looks set to leave Barcelona next year and could go to England
A reunion between Guardiola and Messi has been long in the City pipeline
Meanwhile, did social media trigger David Coote’s removal for Liverpool game?
One conclusion can be drawn from Thursday’s news about Pep Guardiola. Lionel Messi to Manchester City. This time it is really happening.
When deal is most likely
Maybe in January, more likely next summer. Undeniably, though, the most logical motivation for Guardiola tying himself to the club until 2023 is the guarantee of this reunion.
The greatest player with the greatest coach. Both titles subjective and hotly disputed but, honestly, who wouldn’t pay to see that?
If Messi is coming to the Premier League, even at the age of 34 as he will be in June, it is box office. And for Guardiola, too, plainly.
Who wouldn’t want to find out what they can achieve in the English game? Who wouldn’t want to work again with such a talent? Just as Guardiola to Manchester City was known long before realisation, so Messi’s arrival has been clearly signposted.
This has been the strategy for close to a decade. This has been on the agenda since Barcelona man Ferran Soriano was appointed chief executive officer at Manchester City. One by one, they have all arrived since.
Txiki Begiristain as director of football, Manuel Pellegrini to keep the manager’s seat warm, Guardiola — and now the cherry on top.
The band is back together; or it soon will be. Messi has always been the target but only now is he attainable.
Messi relationship withBarcelona now
There was a time when it did not look the smartest move. Messi and the modern Barcelona were inseparable. Any transfer would represent his second-best life. His preference would always be Catalonia and the club that has nurtured him since the age of 13.
Yet that relationship has soured. Clearly, Messi would have left last summer if he could have and the sight of him returning to Barcelona from international duty this week to be met at the airport by tax investigators was a study in disillusionment.
‘I’m a little tired of always being the problem for everything at the club,’ Messi told reporters in response to accusations from Antoine Griezmann’s former agent, Eric Olhats, that he enjoys a ‘reign of terror’.
Messi at Barcelona
Barcelona are eighth in LaLiga and all but one of Messi’s six goals this season have come from the penalty spot. Certainly, Manchester City would not be buying a player at his peak.
They may, however, be buying one with a point to prove, who is no longer hankering for the Nou Camp and could receive a fillip from being reunited with Guardiola.
And undoubtedly his former coach has ego enough to believe he is the man who could spark Messi in the Premier League, too.
That would be the challenge of his next two years at Manchester City: a revived Messi spearheading an assault on the biggest domestic and European prizes.
If we find it a compelling narrative, one imagines Guardiola does, too. Maybe he also seeks the answer to that question about Burnley on a wet Tuesday night.
Some will think the move should be reversed; that Barcelona is Guardiola’s spiritual home and the re-acquaintance with Messi should have been achieved by returning to Spain, but he doesn’t agree.
Asked about a homecoming recently, Guardiola said: ‘My period as manager in Barcelona is over. I will come back to my seats to see my club, by watching a game.’
And he’s right. What business remains there? It’s different at City, not least with Messi. So many questions unanswered, so many riddles to solve. It is thought Guardiola has looked jaded in recent weeks but he was all smiles as he signed his new contract.
After all, who wouldn’t stick around to see how this pans out?