Since 2008 the famous Ballon D’Or award has been dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The winner is justifiably recognised as the best player in the world. Only in 2018 did Luka Modric gate crash the two-man party.
The award has been given out since 1956 and some of the greatest players in the world have won the accolade including some greats of the English game – Stanley Matthews, George Best, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Kevin Keegan and Michael Owen. You can add to that Eusebio, Beckenbauer, Cruyff and many more superstars of yesteryear.
The English Premier League continues to attract some of the best players in the world, but Lionel Messi has been synonymous with Barcelona since he joined them at the age of 13 from his native Argentina. His scoring record has been phenomenal with 634 goals in 731 appearances. He is the one player in the world that until very recently I would have been certain would end his career with the Catalan giants but now it is a very real possibility that in the coming weeks Messi will become a Manchester City player. The boost to the worldwide status of the English Premier League will be immeasurable and I for one would pay good money to see Messi live and there is no doubt that at every stadium he plays in there will not be a single empty seat – coronavirus permitting!
Messi has a few obstacles to overcome if he is to make it to these shores. His contract allowed him to leave on a free transfer if he exercised that right by 31st May 2020 but he didn’t because of the lockdown in Spain and because of that the clause that requires a transfer fee of €700m euros to be paid for his release now takes precedence in the view of both Barcelona and La Liga. Messi argues that he didn’t want to rock the boat at the club in lockdown and the intention of the clause was that a free transfer was granted at the end of the 2019/20 season and it was not his fault the season was extended so he is basing his argument on the spirit of the contract.
Messi has refused to return for pre-season training, and it will be interesting to see how this now plays out. Once a player decides to leave a club that club faces a real dilemma. To be successful a team has to have at its core a real team spirit and togetherness as a group. Having a key player like Messi at odds with the club cannot be allowed to fester and only serves to demoralise teammates, split the fanbase and destabilise the club. If that is Manchester City’s gain, then all football fans in this country should be appreciative that possibly the greatest ever footballer will be appearing at a stadium somewhere near them.
Peter Varney – Chairman, Integral Sports Management
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Pool photo by Manu Fernandez