Messi’s tremendous salary, the highest in football history, restricts to the maximum the list of clubs that can undertake his signing
If all the clubs in Europe met in a large conference room and were asked how many of them want to sign Leo Messi, surely all – or almost – would raise their hands immediately. But in football, and more so in the difficult circumstances that the pandemic has generated in the industry in recent months, love is not so important as power. How many would raise their hands if the question were who has the capacity to sign Messi? Few, very few. It is not possible to give an exact figure, but the number will hardly exceed half a dozen.
Among many other records, the Argentine star holds that of being the highest-paid footballer in the history of football. According to Forbes, his salary at Barcelona this last season – without taking into account the cuts due to the effects of the pandemic – is 95 million euros gross. An amount that other sources raise up to 100 kilos, of which Messi receives around 50 clean in his bank account. Behind him, Neymar is second on the list, with a salary of 70 million at Paris Saint-Germain, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo, whose contract with Juventus brings him about 65 gross kilos per year. The next, already a long way from the first three, are players like Salah, Mbappé, Pogba, and Özil, all of them around 25 million gross annual salaries.
Although Messi had his way and managed to leave Barça with the freedom card, the range of clubs with the capacity to maintain his cache is very limited. And one of them, the only one in Spain, is Real Madrid, which is counting on getting rid of the salaries of Bale and James, another titanic mission. But, needless to say, it is nothing short of a utopia to imagine that Messi, the most important player in the history of Barcelona, is going to take the airlift to the Bernabéu. And it is not clear that the accounts will end at the Bernabéu. Bayern may be able to face the operation, but the Argentine star would have a difficult fit in his project. Something similar happens to Juventus, who would have to sacrifice too many pieces to configure a dream forward – but very veteran and perhaps difficult to coexist – alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
Thus, the options are reduced to the two Manchester teams, City and United, PSG and Inter. Except for the Red Devils, everyone is united by being owned by billionaires willing to spend whatever it takes to lead their soccer toy to stardom. Financial Fair Play, as City’s recent acquittal demonstrated, is only a relative obstacle.
On paper, the option that makes the most sense is precisely that of the team that Pep Guardiola coaches. A perfect fit for their playing model, he would be an ideal complement to De Bruyne and Sterling and the club needs a boost to make up lost ground with Liverpool this season. Now, making such an investment would surely mean leaving your pressing defensive needs unattended. The City will have to assess whether it is worth it or not.
A TRIDENT IN PARIS?
The other great club-state on the European scene, PSG, also has the money for punishment and has been released this summer from the contracts of Thiago Silva and Cavani. After the defeat in the Champions League final, it sounds tempting to put together a trident with Mbappé and Neymar to prepare a new assault on Oregon. Now, can all three fit into the same team? Could the desired Neymar enter the operation? Questions still unanswered.
Another of the thriving new rich in continental football is Inter, which has been winking at Messi for months. His incorporation would give him the leap in quality to look for in Milan and has the advantage of favorable Italian tax treatment, which sets the tax base at 30% for those who come from abroad and commit to residing for 24 months in the country.
The last alternative for Messi, perhaps the most traditional, would be Manchester United. The English club is looking for a signing that will ostensibly strengthen its offensive front. Jadon Sancho has been his object of desire in recent months, but Solskjaer’s side could well refocus its sights on one of the best – if not the best – footballers in history. 100 million euros, plus the transfer that may be required for its transfer, make up the price to pay.