Lionel Messi and Chelsea. It’s a transfer saga that even the biggest cynics have been unable to resist getting invested in, and virtually anyone related to Stamford Bridge can’t help but salivate over.
When the initial rumours began to do the rounds, ones suggesting that the Blues would indeed plan an assault to claim the Nou Camp’s biggest prize, they were laughed off in a similar manner to those suggesting Gareth Bale was going to trade in the dazzling heights of the Santiago Bernabeu for Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United.
Messi to Chelsea
Yet, somewhat conveniently for anyone looking to sell papers, the January transfer window has given the Messi to Chelsea rumour the legs that all lofty batches of speculation need.
In the end Chelsea assistant Steve Holland was forced to categorically rule out the chances of a Messi bid being contemplated, dubbing it impossible. The player himself also had to answer questions relating to the prospect of him leaving Barcelona, although his response last night was somewhat more ambiguous.
Sure Chelsea are among an incredibly small smattering of clubs perhaps able to afford Messi’s combined transfer fee and wage demands, said to total £500 million, but even so it’s difficult to look beyond the fact that the Argentina international has repeatedly stated that he wants to end his career in Catalonia.
The major problem
That notwithstanding though there’s an combustible element at Chelsea that renders all talks of what would surely be the biggest in football history quite frankly obsolete. It’s name? Jose Mourinho.
The Special One has long been lauded as a pioneer of football management. His arrival to Premier League shores after a dumbfounding Champions League victory with FC Porto heralded the emergence of a true dug-out great, and one whose personality was just as big, bold and brash as his ability to construct frustratingly good teams.
Despite this the union of arguably the world’s greatest ever player, and a man who is likely to go down as one of the game’s managerial greats is but a pipe dream. It’s not that it wouldn’t ever happen, but I honestly don’t believe it would produce close to the sort of fruits people might expect.
The primary cause of that is Mourinho’s attitude towards having complete control of his squads, and not allowing any player, four-time Ballon d’Or winner or no, to come anywhere near to calling the shots.
The Portuguese boss derives his control from being the centre-point of the club’s he manages. In a way he establishes himself as the difference-maker when it comes to crunch time; he’s the asset that makes the difference.
That’s why he enjoyed so much success at Porto, Chelsea - during the first stint - and Inter Milan. All three clubs were happy to yield themselves to his control and surrender to his whim in the hope that he delivered them unto greatness. He did.
At Real Madrid he was far less fortunate, even though he had inexhaustible resources at his fingertips, the ability to convince virtually any player on his planet to join his cause and of course the presence of Messi’s eternal rival, Cristiano Ronaldo.
This was because Real are a club that care very little about the political agendas of the man supposedly in charge, and because in Ronaldo they already had a star who was sitting atop a plinth even Mourinho couldn’t get near. He wasn’t the go-to-guy, and though he tried he couldn’t really get close.
Mourinho and Messi just won't work
Were Messi to ever consider moving to Chelsea surely chief on his mind would be the fact that he would be throwing away a large portion of the adoration from Barcelona that keeps his god-like sheen no matter how he is faring on the pitch. In it’s place would be an anticipated fight with Mourinho to determine who the real power in west London was.
A by-product of that battle hardly makes for surroundings set to bring the best out of Messi, making it impossible to inspire the sort of form he was in under Pep Guardiola. That’s because the now-Bayern Munich boss quickly realised that one of the secrets to keeping Messi onboard was to make sure he knew he was the main man, no matter what the cost.
There can only be one
Such a decision is said to have cost Zlatan Ibrahimovic his Nou Camp career before it could really take off, and is now having a similar effect on Luis Enrique, who has been vilified and masqueraded as a struggling coach despite the fact that Barca sit second in La Liga by one point, having conceded just nine goals in 18 matches.
So it’s with a forlorn sense of resignation that I’m willing to put my money behind the theory that Messi can’t, and therefore won’t, be moving to Chelsea anytime soon.
His aura of invincibility, albeit waning in recent times, makes him the Sheriff in Spain, and unfortunately there’s only room for one of those at Stamford Bridge. He may have voted him as his choice for Fifa Coach of the Year, but even Messi is smart enough to know that.