As he does not pose or preen on the field, he has long been cast as the humble superstar toCristiano Ronaldo’s rampant egomaniac.
Yet Messi has never been slow voicing his displeasure about events or individuals at his club. And it is his club — or at least he thinks of it that way.
Ronald Koeman is the new manager of Barcelona, so we can presume Lionel Messi likes him
Messi’s genius built the modern Barcelona, and as it wanes with age, so have they. Yet the club’s custodians and figureheads will always indulge him if they can.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic wrote that Pep Guardiola chose to make Messi happy, ahead of him, during his time at Nou Camp.
The ill-fated Quique Setien was finished as coach long before the 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich, once a rift with Messi appeared.
Again this summer, there is speculation about Messi’s future which seems to recur every time he is dissatisfied.
A theory is that he wishes club president Josep Bartomeu gone and by letting rumours about his future run, may force his resignation.
Immediately, though, there are hopeful links to a Premier League move. Manchester City, obviously, with its Guardiola pull, and Manchester United, too. They would be mad, either of them.
Messi has never been slow voicing his displeasure about events or individuals at Barcelona
For a start, there is a £630million release clause.
Even if Barcelona would do business for one third of that – and, at 33, any investment would have to be written off because no resale could be presumed, not even to the Middle East or China – what Messi would the next club be buying? In all likelihood, an angry, resentful man, now living his second-best life.
For we all know Messi’s ideal.
It is to live in Barcelona and play for Barcelona, in a team that serves him, under a coach that values him above all other options.
If he left, that dream would be over. That does not make for a happy soul, nor necessarily an inspired one.
Messi would want to prove Barcelona wrong? Really? What does he actually have to prove? Do you think he sits alone at night wondering if he could do it on a cold Tuesday in Burnley? Do you think he views his destiny as pipping Jamie Vardy for the Golden Boot?
The World Cup aside, if Messi dreams of lifting a trophy he is wearing a red and blue shirt.
Both Manchester clubs would be mad to move for Messi due to his dream to stay at Barcelona
Steven Gerrard has always insisted he does not regret spurning Chelsea and never winning the league title, because he didn’t want to win it with Chelsea. He wanted it with Liverpool.
He tried his entire career and it wasn’t to be. But he did win the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, two FA Cups and three League Cups. And that, he says, means more than anything he could have won at Chelsea.
It would be the same for Messi – and £630m is an awful lot to spend on a player who would rather be somewhere else.
OZIL REBOOT MUST BE RESISTED
Since Arsenal decided to cut 55 staff, Mesut Ozil has been painted somewhere between a resistance fighter and Nostradamus for refusing to take a pay cut during lockdown. As if he knew.
As if his decision was based on anything beyond self-interest. Arsenal’s players thought they were saving jobs and then jobs went anyway. Yet maybe they did save jobs. Maybe more would have gone were it not for their generous gesture. It does not make Ozil right, nor does it make him psychic.
He will continue sucking his £350,000 a week out of the club. He does not play because coaches do not believe he tries hard enough. Maybe had he tried harder, Arsenal would be more robust in the face of economic crisis.
Mesut Ozil’s decision to refuse a pay cut during lockdown was based solely on self-interest
LINEKER CAN’T MISS IN SHOOTOUT WITH MP
Lee Anderson, Conservative MP for Ashfield, thought he would score a few cheap and easy points off a footballer. So when Gary Lineker expressed sympathy for the migrants attempting to cross the Channel to Britain, he took to the airwaves with an offer.
‘If Gary Lineker wants to e-mail me with his full name, address and postcode, I will make sure that’s available for the next boat of illegal immigrants to come and live in,’ he announced. He added that Lineker seeks popularity by putting out the right messages.
Not that Anderson has ever courted populism with his anti-immigrant, pro-Brexit stance, or by deserting the Labour party for the Conservatives in 2018, or by being part of a Facebook group in which other members promoted the views of Tommy Robinson.
Gary Lineker fired back to Lee Anderson MP’s challenge by offering to host a guest at his home
Anyway, Lineker’s response was to post an e-mail confirmation from the charity Refugees At Home, thanking him for offering to host a guest at his house in south-west London. Always alive to the swift counter-attack, a spokesman for Lineker then invited Anderson to do the same.
Oh, the wheedling and excuses that followed. His wife was a donor transplant recipient, his wife had cystic fibrosis, he had provided a roof for Armed Services veterans previously, but no longer could due to these unfortunate personal circumstances.
It seems Anderson was seeking empathy, sympathy, an understanding that we are not all born lucky and some have problems that require the kindness and understanding of others. Pretty much Lineker’s point, really, if only the opportunist Anderson had been bright enough to appreciate it.
WAS STERLING’S MISS EASY TO PREDICT?
Talking to a coach this week – Premier League, Football League, worked abroad, no mug – he expressed surprise at Raheem Sterling’s miss against Lyon. Not surprise at the miss, though. Surprise at the shock that greeted it. Sterling, he said, still has poor finishing technique. Leans back, crosses his legs. The goal he scored against Real Madrid could have gone exactly the same way, he said. He’s not clean in front of goal.
Yet Sterling has scored 31 times for Manchester City this season, with another four for England. His finishing has improved immeasurably, surely? The coach thought it was his positional play, his movement, his eye for the goal and role in the team that had changed.
Plus, Manchester City under Pep Guardiola and with Kevin De Bruyne pulling the strings produce an awful lot of opportunities. Under pressure, as Sterling and City were on Saturday against Lyon, flaws in technique are exposed. Not being a coach, this is one for the professionals. But it’s certainly an interesting theory.
GREAT SURVIVOR RONNIE IS TAKING IT EASY IN HIS OLD AGE
One reason Ronnie O’Sullivan regards snooker’s upcoming generation with such casual disdain is very clear – he thought he would be out of it by now.
Finished. Gone. Done with. In 2013, when we spoke at length about his snooker career, he said it would be over in six or seven years. It’s the eyes. A man gets into his forties and the vision goes. He can no longer see those minute margins that define a good snooker shot.
Ronnie O’Sullivan believed he would be struggling but sealed a sixth World Championship title
O’Sullivan believed he would soon be struggling. Instead, he’s just won a sixth World Championship at the age of 44. So, two things are true. O’Sullivan is a genius at his sport, the greatest there has ever been and certainly the most charismatic. When he is playing – and sometimes even when he is not – it is impossible to take your eyes off him.
Equally, he has a point about the younger generation. Ray Reardon was the oldest winner of the World Championship at 45 years and 203 days but snooker was a very different game in 1978. O’Sullivan should be under immense pressure.
If anything, he’s finding it easier.
TEST DEBACLE MAY JUST TURN THE LIGHTS ON
Wasn’t it delightful, the disastrous second Test against Pakistan? As someone who has long opposed cricket’s time vampire delays and crowd-alienating quirks, perhaps it needed an event as truly dismal as this to wake up the sport’s administrators.
Test cricket is great but its processes border on anti-sport. Players off for bad light, while the floodlights glow brightly; a day’s play abandoned in sunshine because the outfield sits uncovered and sodden; a delayed start followed by a break for lunch after one hour.
Every infuriating nuance of Test cricket, every turn-off for an audience young or old was present and correct. What sport breaks for lunch and tea, or loses hours of play and then insists on retiring for lengthy refreshments?
Perhaps cricket needed the truly dismal event in Southampton to wake up its administrators
Equally, what sport installs artificial illumination at its stadia and then ignores it? Baseball is America’s cricket because the game lasts for hours, with similar ebbs and flows – but there the similarity ends.
There are brief delays between innings to allow pitchers to warm up, but nothing longer than the famed seventh-inning stretch in which fans are invited to sing the 1908 standard ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’. A day game affected by weather may start later under floodlights and play to a small-hours conclusion.
New York Mets at Atlanta Braves on July 4, 1985, actually finished at 3.18am on July 5 – and Atlanta still held the end of game firework display. This is extreme, obviously.
But maybe, after the debacle in Southampton, cricket might revisit its responsibility to what remains of its audience.
NO EASY WAY TO BREAK BAD NEWS
Dylan Hartley says England coach Eddie Jones told him he was out of the World Cup with: ‘You’re f***ed, mate.’
Glenn Hoddle, in 1998, let players down easy with the soothing sounds of Kenny G and Paul Gascoigne smashed his room up. No manners, but what a critic.
There is no nice way to break news like that.
POST COVID-19 WORLD WILL FOLLOW THE MONEY
Through lockdown there has been much debate around which sports will survive. It has been said women’s sport has been treated unfairly – that while men’s football and golf, for instance, have found a way back, the same opportunities have been denied women.
Now look at the hit being taken by Team GB athletes as Nike withdraw their sponsorships. Some 36 of 60 are likely to be cut. The survivors? Top performers such as Laura Muir, Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
The sports, the athletes, that are threatened by financial collapse are those with the smallest audiences, the least appeal. Those who command the television audiences and wider interest will endure, whether male or female. Just as in any recession, the world beyond Covid-19 will for a time simply follow the money.
POCH’S MISPLACED LOYALTY COST HIM BARCELONA GIG
There were some strong voices on the board at Barcelona making the case for Mauricio Pochettino as manager. What counted against him, apparently, was an ancient, throwaway remark about preferring farm work to coaching at the Nou Camp.
Pochettino’s managerial career started at Barca’s city rivals Espanyol, who terminated his contract close to two months before he got the job at Southampton.
What a pity misplaced loyalty to a fickle employer looks to have cost him one of the great opportunities.
Mauricio Pochettino’s misplaced loyalty to Espanyol has cost him the opportunity at Barcelona
LOH COUSINS ARE LATEST NEWCASTLE BIDDER
The latest bidder for Newcastle – not much has been heard of American businessman Henry Mauriss, the moment he had a clear run with the withdrawal of Saudi Arabian interest – is Singaporean investment group Bellagraph Nova, led by cousins Terence and Nelson Loh.
They have already recruited Alan Shearer, saying he can take any job he wants at the club, including manager – a role he performed so successfully for two months in 2009 that Newcastle went down.
The Bellegraph Nova website talks of revenue in the region of £9billion, yet reports claim disagreement over Mike Ashley’s asking price of £300million and an offer no higher than £280m. So a company with the wealth of Roman Abramovich is haggling over half the fee for Joelinton. What could possibly go wrong?
KARANKA PROMISES ‘FIGHTS’ AT BIRMINGHAM
Aitor Karanka has promised ‘fights and arguments’ as he attempts to drag Birmingham City out of the Championship. As this club’s regime burns through good managers as swiftly as King Alfred did hot cakes, one imagines tension can be pretty much guaranteed. Success, not so much.
Aitor Karanka has promised ‘fights and arguments’ now he has taken over Birmingham City