For the better part of the last decade, Lionel Messi has been a pipe dream for Chelsea and owner Roman Abramovich. His recent Barcelona exit shocked the football world after the Catalonian club could no longer afford to keep the Argentine at the club. Almost instantly, Paris Saint-Germain was on Messi’s metaphorical doorstep with a contract and pen in hand.
In a weird way, PSG jumped to the front of the queue not by who it has, but rather by who it doesn’t. Just hours before the Messi news broke the internet, Manchester City—one of the only other clubs rumoured to be in for the world’s best—revealed it had completed its deal with Aston Villa for Jack Grealish. It was then that the Citizens effectively ruled themselves out of the Messi sweepstakes through no fault of their own. The Blues were also deep into negotiations with Inter Milan for Romelu Lukaku.
Therefore, PSG was the only club that can realistically afford Messi that wasn’t distracted elsewhere at the time. After all, there was no reason to suspect Messi wasn’t going to start the season at Camp Nou, so those clubs were right to look elsewhere.
Lionel Messi is likely headed to Paris Saint-Germain, but Chelsea can still dream
The Argentina captain is playing coy with his final destination, claiming that PSG is just one possibility of places he could play. He certainly fits into the Parisian giant’s side, but it will likely mean displacing his compatriot Di Maria. Further, the whole reason Neymar reportedly left Barcelona was to escape Messi’s shadow. It is in the height of this potential angst that Chelsea should make a late play. Indeed, few have considered that a move to London could be on the cards, but here is why it makes sense.
Messi wants to win trophies and there is no better club to join if you want to win trophies right now than Chelsea, serial winners. It is a long shot pitch for the Blues, but if there is a signing that makes sense more than anything else, it is Messi’s. Not for the obvious reason that he is the greatest player of all time though; no, it makes sense for Messi because Chelsea has shown it will do whatever it takes to win trophies.
The Blues are a team in the now. Chelsea is a club that is hell-bent on winning something year after year after year—just ask Frank Lampard. There is no five-year plan in SW6, there is no “this year we grow,” discussions, it is only a question of “how can the Blues compete on four fronts?” Every. Single. Year.
Detractors have often looked at Chelsea’s youth system as just a cash cow for the club with no real hope of ever seeing a graduate actually put on a Chelsea shirt in a game that matters. Yes, John Terry, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount and Reece James—to name a few—can contradict that, but overwhelmingly, those detractors are not entirely wrong.
Take the departures of Lewis Bate, Tino Livramento and Jamal Musiala, for example. Three immensely talented youngsters all on the edge of the Chelsea first team; all three left to go play senior football more consistently at Leeds, Southampton and Bayern Munich respectively. This type of approach is also how Chelsea lost out on players like Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah in the first place. The club did the hard work of scouting them and bringing them in to the club, but was so focused on the present that it let three world class footballers depart.
Messi wants to win trophies and there’s no English club more successful in the last decade than Chelsea. An immense haul of 19 major trophies since Abramovich’s takeover in 2003 with 11 coming since 2009/10. The Blues have nearly always been in the trophy hunt in the most competitive league in the world.
Yes, PSG wins trophies every year, but frankly, they are expected to in Ligue 1 with the quality (and cost) of its matchday squad. It is for these reasons that it is far more of a blemish on Les Parisiens not winning than on Chelsea losing to a powerhouse like Man City, a resurgent Man United and an ever-present Liverpool. PSG has spent ridiculous amounts of money in order to win a Champions League, yet it has still failed to do that throughout its entire history. Chelsea has also spent ridiculous amounts of money to win a Champions League, but the Blues have two to their name.
If Messi really wants to prove himself—a ridiculous notion if you take a look at his career—there is no better place than England, and no better team than Chelsea. The allure of Pep Guardiola is strong, but don’t discount the late charge the Blues could potentially make.