·29 November 2023
·29 November 2023
It is no secret that Lionel Messi had decided to leave Barcelona in 2020, when he sent a burofax to then President Josep Maria Bartomeu explaining just that. The Inter Miami star believed he had the legal grounds to rescind his contract, which included a €750m release clause and expired the following year, but was unwilling to go through a legal battle in order to get out of his contract. However he had started making plans to join Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
As per Sport, who recount a chapter from Marti Perarnau’s latest book, ‘God save Pep’, Messi offered himself to Manchester City. According to Perarnau, who is Guardiola’s biographer, Messi sent Sergio Aguero a message saying that he wanted to leave due to his disagreements with the board. He then relayed this information to City – ‘Be alert, two things can happen. Leo has asked me how long Pep has a contract with City for.’
Guardiola was on his way back to Barcelona from Lisbon, as he assimilated defeat to Lyon in the Champions League in 2020, the year when the tournament took place in Portugal following a delay for the pandemic. Barcelona had just been humiliated by Bayern Munich, 8-2, and on Guardiola’s arrival in Catalonia, he received a message from Messi – ‘Hello Pep, how are you?’
The next day, the two met at Guardiola’s home, and although Guardiola warned him that ‘it rains a lot in Manchester’, Messi was keen on the move. The Argentine explained his differences with the Barcelona board, and desire to make the move, resulting in a conversation that lasted hours. The following exchange took place too.
“-In Manchester we train very hard… (Guardiola)
-I will train hard, I’m not worried. (Messi)
-And I continued making long tactical talks. Maybe you’ll get bored…
-I’ll hold on. I will put up with everything you do.
-Leo, we have grown older. Maybe we can’t stand each other anymore.
-Pep, I just want to kill it.”
Football is full of forks in the road, and moments that could have changed the course of history. Manchester City fans will no doubt be lamenting the fact that Messi ended up at Paris Saint-Germain just a year later, after Barcelona rejected his requests to leave, but ultimately failed to offer him a contract in the summer of 2021. The partnership between Guardiola and Messi was rocky by the end of their time in Barcelona, but ultimately remains the most successful in Barcelona’s history, and one of the best-remembered teams in the game.