If Lionel Messi does in fact leave FC Barcelona this summer, his most likely destination is Manchester.
And while it is then far more likely that he will join compatriots Sergio Aguero and Nicholas Otamendi on the blue side of the city, there is one reason why fans should not rule out the possibility of his signing for United: Tom Brady.
United’s owners, the Glazer family, are also owners of American football side Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where they have also had a less than cordial relationship with fans.
The Glazers could not take out huge loans against the Bucs like they have at United because it is against NFL rules, but the financial management other than that is eerily similar to that at Old Trafford.
The team has become less and less successful since their take-over and some say they have become the laughing stock of the NFL.
The club has been through three coaches in the last six years while their general manager, Jason Licht, makes one unpopular decision after another but retains his job, just like United’s executive vice chairman Ed Woodward.
And yet in March, the Bucs signed the greatest American footballer of all time, Tom Brady, at the age of 43, on a salary of $50 million (£38m/£730,000 per week).
If the Glazers can go to these lengths to sign Brady, there is no reason to doubt that they would sanction a similar move for Messi.
It is, for the American tycoons, a commercial investment. They are taking over a brand, which they can exploit with merchandising, shirt sales, sponsorships and media deals.
It is not just about the number of Messi shirts the club could sell, it is about how much extra shirt sponsors will pay to see their logo on Messi’s shirt, how much the sleeve sponsors will pay now that it is Messi’s sleeve that their name sits on and how much kit providers – Nike, Adidas and company – would bid against each other knowing that Messi will become part of their branding.
And so on.
If the Glazers run true to form, if Messi is available on a free transfer, United will be, and probably already are, in for him, whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likes the idea or not.
Of course, whether the ‘Atomic Flea’ would choose Old Trafford over the Etihad is another matter.
The 33-year-old reportedly phoned Pep Guardiola before he announced he was leaving Barcelona, suggesting that he would like nothing more than to be reunited with his former coach.
‘The conversation ended with the Manchester City manager telling Messi that if he definitely wanted to leave Barcelona, he would inform City’s hierarchy that he would love to sign him,’ The Times claims.
‘City have long been keen observers of Messi’s position at Barcelona and the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour, would view signing the Argentina star for the club as the fulfilment of a dream.’
Of course, with Barcelona president Sep Bartomeu reportedly offering to resign if it means Messi would stay at the club, it is still by no means certain that the Argentinian will follow through and leave at all.
There is also the possibility that Barca will win their legal battle against the player over whether he can walk away on a free transfer or not – and if they do, his buyout clause would, in all likelihood, put paid to any bid from any club.
So whilst the chances of seeing Messi in a United shirt remain remote, the club’s owners, for their own non-footballing reasons, will be doing everything they can to make it a reality.
They did, after all, succeed with Brady.
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