It’s been a crazy few days for Lionel.
From the infamous burofax to an interview with Goal announcing he is staying due to being held to ransom by the club he loves, it’s hard to imagine 2020 could get any more mental. Strangely, I don’t even think this will be the end of the story for Messi, however, as things stand, Messi will be doing at least one more season with the Blaugrana.
Still, that didn’t stop me finding out what could have been. Based on the fact most people agree that Messi probably has 2 ‘good’ years left, I simulated 2 seasons for Messi at the 5 clubs most likely to sign him and the results varied from brilliant to intriguing to crazy.
Lionel Messi produced 2 very impressive seasons at his time at the Citizens. As favourites to sign the Argentine, reuniting him with Pep Guardiola, City fans will be impressed with his performances. Averaging an 8.09 rating, Messi scored 33 league goals, assisting 14, in 66 appearances. He also achieved a ridiculous 18 Man of the Match awards in his first season; before achieving 7 in his second season respectively.
Trophywise, Messi was very successful. Winning the Premier League in his first season before achieving a Champions League final and FA Cup victory in 2021. He also won PFA Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year in both seasons; alongside a Ballon d’Or victory in 2019.
Messi did, unfortunately, miss out on top scorer in both seasons to Harry Kane and, remarkably, Chris Wood but he did sign a 1-year extension to stay with Guardiola and new signings Erling Haland, Samuel Umtiti and Justin Kluivert.
Don’t worry United fans, you may not have Jadon Sancho (yet) but I can assure you that Lionel Messi was an adequate substitute. Playing RW in a 4-2-3-1 under Ole, Messi flourished at the Red Devils scoring 15 and assisting 15 in just 34 games in his first season before scoring 11 and assisting 14 in his second. Averaging an 8.0, I think Messi arguably produced a more consistent display over his 2 seasons at United than he did in the blue side of Manchester.
However, while he may have individually been more successful, trophies were hard to come by for Lionel during his time in red. Following a 5th place finish and Europa League win in his first season, United strengthed the squad through the purchases of Achraf Hakimi, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Lautaro Martinez. Martinez would fire himself to top scorer in the 20/21 season but Utd would just finish short; 2 points off title winners Liverpool.
Messi would win the Ballon D’Or in 2019 and, once again, win the PFA Player of the Year and the Player’s Player of the Year in both seasons.
Now, while it probably doesn’t surprise you Messi produced his best spell of these chosen clubs playing in Ligue 1, he did play RM in a fairly rigid 4-4-2 under Tuchel so give him some credit. From that flat midfield, Messi scored 33 and assisted 38 in 68 games; averaging a quite ridiculous 8.42 rating.
Messi would, obviously, win back-to-back Ligue 1s as well as a Coupe de France in 2020. However, Messi was not enough to end the European curse for the Parisians. They would not only lose the Europa League final in 2020 but also the Champions League final in 2021. Maybe they are just doomed to European failure forever…
Individually, Messi won Best Player, Best Foreign Player and Most Assists in both of his seasons. He also came 2nd to Ronaldo in the Ballon D’or in 2019 but beat his Portuguese rival and teammate Kylian Mbappe in 2020.
Italy was perhaps the country I presume you were most fascinated to learn about. A highly structured, defensive league definitely limited Messi’s powers.
Playing in Conte’s 5-3-2, Messi would play in a strike partnership with Lautaro Martinez; a role he has rarely played throughout his career. He would score 19 and assist 16 in 66 games averaging a 7.78 and achieving 20 Man of the Match awards. Hardly inspiring for a 6 time Ballon d’Or winner.
Inter would fail to win a single trophy with Messi but would reach a Champions League final in 2020 and finish 2nd behind the imperious Juventus in both seasons. Individually, Messi was beaten to Serie A Player of the Year in both seasons by Cristiano Ronaldo but won Forward of the Year in 2020. He also failed to make the top 3 of the Ballon d’Or in both seasons.
This was the one you were waiting for, wasn’t it? Dybala in behind a strike partnership of arguably the two greatest footballers of all time; Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Surely this team would annihilate every team in its path.
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you may be disappointed. I also don’t want to open a can of worms but Ronaldo outshone his rival in almost every aspect. Scoring 23 and assisting 15 in 44 games averaging a 7.71 is arguably Messi’s worst spell at any of the clubs I tested.
In fact, trophy wise, it would be a disaster for Messi and Ronaldo in their first season as the Bianconeri finished 2nd in the 19/20 season; ending Juve’s 7-year title streak before regaining it in his 2nd year as well as adding a Coppa Italia.
Messi did win Serie A Player of the Year and Forward of the Year in his 2nd season; losing out to Cristiano in both award during the first season. The Ballon d’Or would, much like it did at Inter, prove to be another disappointment for Messi as he would not make the top 3 in either season. However, Firmino won it in 2019 and Morata finished 2nd in 2020 so maybe France Football isn’t a good indicator for talent…
So there you have it; Italy is a disaster for Messi and he loves a 4-4-2. Not quite what I was expecting but isn’t that the beauty of Football Manager? I hope you enjoyed this little experiment and if you have any suggestions for future challenges or questions, please contact me or the page on Instagram.
Just make sure it’s not about Firmino or Morata.