Lionel Messi isn’t likely to push for a switch to Chelsea in the near future because of a promise he made to former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova on the latter’s deathbed.
That’s according to ex-Catalan assistant Henk Ten Cate, as relayed by the Daily Express, who claims that Messi made a pledge to Vilanova before he passed away, which centred around him remaining at the Nou Camp.
Ten Cate goes as far as to suggest that honouring the agreement is the only reason Messi hasn’t moved clubs, and confirmed his belief that the rumours of a fall-out between the four-time Ballon d’Or winner and Luis Enrique aren’t altogether unfounded.
"As far as I know, these problems all started about two years ago," Ten Cate said.
"Messi is only still at Barcelona because he promised it to Tito Vilanova at his deathbed.
"Messi is only still at Barcelona because he promised it to Tito Vilanova at his deathbed"
"But I think a transfer would be in everybody's best interest. Lionel has been at Barcelona for quite a while and he needs a new challenge. He's still worth a lot of money now, but his value will only go down from here on.
"I really want to be supportive, because he has been on another level for 10 years. But I'm not sure he will get back to his best.
"It isn't normal to shine for 10 years like he has done. Most of the big names can only keep it up for seven or eight years. And to be honest, he wasn't at his best either last season, even if his statistics were still great."
The long goodbye
Recent speculation has played heavily on the suggestion that Messi could finally make a blockbuster move elsewhere this summer due to the fact that he’s wholly unhappy with his current manager.
Barcelona’s recent loss to Real Sociedad is said to have taken his frustrations to the next level, and the notion that the Blues would be prepared to hand him a six-year deal, on top of paying £200 million for his signature, has since been put forward.
Of course Barcelona would be loathe to part with the magician who has not only become a cult hero at the Nou Camp, but also established himself as arguably the greatest technician ever to play the game in the eyes of many neutrals.
The transfer ban handed down to them makes the chances of them relinquishing their best player this calendar year all the more unfeasible, yet for the first time the idea of Messi departing his boyhood club is genuinely growing stable legs.
If Jose Mourinho can get his hands on the diminutive playmaker then it would surely make his already-brilliant Chelsea team one of the dominant forces in European football, whilst casting immediate doubt on Barcelona’s credentials as a superpower for the future.
The Special One has already worked with Cristiano Ronaldo during his time at Real Madrid, and it may well be a personal aim for him to manage Messi before the Argentina captain falls out of his peak.