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The Real Obstacle to Lionel Messi Joining Manchester City

As Messi deal nears, only one thing can hold it up.

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

The media has been on overdrive with stories of Lionel Messi’s expected departure from Barcelona since reports emerged of his decision to leave the Spanish side. For a six-time Ballon d’Or winner - the first and only man to do so in football history, that’s understandable. The Barcelona legend has been the best player in the world for the better part of the last decade.

He remains the most sought-after player in the game today.

Naturally, any club out there that can afford his wages will jump at the opportunity to sign him. That includes Manchester City. With his former manager Pep Guardiola and close friend Sergio Aguero at the club, it appears moving to City could be an easy choice. Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward.

Having spent the whole of his professional career with Barcelona and achieved so much success at the club, he has become synonymous with it.

Of course, club greats like Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta did leave at some point to play elsewhere. But none of them is a six-time Ballon d’Or winner that is the face of Barcelona.

The club wants Messi to retire at Camp Nou. Therefore, the idea of the 33-year-old leaving the Catalan side to play for another team is almost inconceivable.

It’s a fact that the Argentine has not been happy at the way the club has been run for some years now. That culminated in him calling out then director of football Eric Abidal last season to name names when the Frenchman accused some players of instigating the sack of former manager Ernesto Valverde.

However, every house has its own fair share of squabbles from time to time.

Messi’s fax message is his own way of expressing his discontent with the leadership of the club. It could be a protest.

Already that has galvanized the club faithful to seek a resolution. Fans have been protesting for days now, calling on club president Josep Maria Bartomeu and the board to resign. With a new manager already appointed, many other changes could be effected in the coming days and weeks.

So what is the real obstacle that can prevent Messi from joining City?

If Messi gets an assurance that the required changes will be made at the club, it’s very possible that he could reconsider his decision. That is the biggest obstacle to the player joining City, or any other club he has been linked to.

It’s not the money.

Man City, Paris Saint-Germain and even Manchester United can pay Messi’s wages. They only need to make a few adjustments here and there, including letting some players go to free up funds. Besides, shirt sales and other endorsement deals coming from the player’s signing can cover such expenses. We are talking about a transfer that will shake the world here.

As for the transfer fee, a clause in his contract permitted him to leave the club for free at the end of the last campaign. The initial date beyond which that clause could not be exercised was on June 10. Afterwards, any club coming for him was required to fork out €700 million.

But the season didn’t go as planned due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

If Barcelona were to insist, Messi’s lawyers can argue their case in court and even win.

The alternative is for both parties to arrive at a compromise where the fee will be reduced significantly. It can be reduced to a reasonable amount that any of his suitors can pay without any concern of fouling Financial Fair Play rules.

However, remember that FFP rules have been relaxed by UEFA as a result of the effects of COVID-19.

So the only real obstacle to a deal here remains Messi’s decision on where he wants to play football from next season.