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Manchester City or PSG - which club would be the better fit for Lionel Messi?

Manchester City or PSG - which club would be the better fit for Lionel Messi?

The Barcelona man could well be on the move at the end of the season. But where would be the most suitable destination?

LIONEL MESSI might want to keep his phone close by on January 1. From that day, the 33-year-old will be permitted to talk to other clubs with his Barcelona contract set to expire at the end of the season. From this point on, Messi’s outlook will surely get clearer as one of the most high stakes transfer sagas in football history moves towards a conclusion.

If Messi’s phone does indeed ring on New Year’s Day, it’ll likely be two clubs on the other end of the line - Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. They have been most frequently linked with a move for the Argentine who made his d\esire to leave the Camp Nou public in the summer. Other destinations have been mooted, but none are as feasible as the Etihad Stadium and the Parc des Princes.

City led the pursuit during the summer, with Messi believed to be keen to link up with Pep Guardiola again having worked under him at Barca. More recently, though, speculation has pointed the Argentine in PSG’s direction, with Neymar openly imploring for his former teammate to join him in the French capital.

“What I want most of all is to play with Messi again, to be able to enjoy him once again on the pitch,” the Brazilian explained in a recent interview. “He can play in my place, I have no problem with that! But I want to play with him next year, for sure. We have to do it next season.”

Neymar played his best football alongside Messi and so it’s understandable that a reunion would appeal to him. What, however, would PSG offer the six-times Ballon d’Or winner that Manchester City couldn’t? At this stage of his career, Messi must plot any move carefully. Is the French capital the right place for him?

It could certainly be argued Ligue 1 would be a kinder environment for Messi to age gracefully in. While his capacity to survive and thrive in the Premier League is clear, the pace and tempo of the English game is higher than it is in France. Now in his 30s and fading as a physical force, Messi would find it harder to sustain a consistent level of performance in the Premier League.

There would appear to be a more obvious role for Messi in the PSG team too. Thomas Tuchel’s frontline is a fluid, interchangeable unit and Messi could slot in alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, whether it’s on the right side or through the middle. Tuchel could also deploy Messi as a deep-lying playmaker, with the Argentine’s transition into that position already well underway. 

Manchester City might provide Messi with a steadier footing upon which to build the final phase of his career. After the political turmoil of 2020 at the Camp Nou, the 33-year-old could be drawn to a more stable club. This may count against PSG, with the French club almost as volatile as Barcelona.

Messi would know who his manager would be next summer at City, with Guardiola recently signing a new two-year contract extension. The situation is very different at PSG, though. Tuchel is under such scrutiny that Messi wouldn’t be able to count on the German still being at the club for the start of the 2021/22 season. He might not even last long enough at PSG to give Messi a call in the new year.

Tactically, the signing of Messi would give Guardiola a problem. City could certainly use another creator after the exit of David Silva at the end of last season, but from a defensive and pressing standpoint the 33-year-old needs a lot of carrying. Guardiola would have to compensate for Messi’s inclusion somewhere else in his system.

And yet the chance to sign arguably the greatest player of all-time feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity for City. For PSG, too. Sometimes, pragmatism counts for less than ambition and romanticism. The choice in 2021 will be Messi’s.





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Graham Ruthven
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