Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi aim for Liverpool, and Jürgen Klopp set to welcome him
Lionel Messi at Manchester City scares me. I will be honest.
The Argentine claims to be the greatest player of all time. He is among the best shooters, while also being one of the most inspired playmakers the game has ever seen. This season in La Liga, his “decline” has taken the form of 30 goals and 11 assists. Why, then, would Liverpool possibly want to see him move on to the new Premier League champions?
On the one hand, Messi is Barcelona. The team is built around him. The crop of young players passing through La Masia have no qualms about playing second fiddle – footage of everyone lining up to take a photo with Messi after the Copa del Rey win has revealed this. Placing him in a City squad full of big names doesn’t guarantee the same return. Likewise, the salaries required to complete the signing would surely be astronomical: the risk of destabilizing established players is real.
Likewise, the issue of age cannot be ignored. While it does not diminish Messi’s enduring greatness in any way, he is now 33 years old. No one can go on at the highest level forever. This point applies with even more force to Cristiano Ronaldo, for whom a sensational return to Manchester United has been mentioned. Although the 36-year-old continues to display impressive numbers, the body clock is undoubtedly ticking.
Either way, this season has shown that neither Messi nor Ronaldo stay at the level where they can single-handedly propel teams to glory. The pair finished 3rd and 4th in their respective leagues, failing to fully cover the loopholes of the struggling Barcelona and Juventus sides. Even if City or United respond to the tantalizing demands that both players are bound to attract, they won’t buy each other a guarantee of success.
As such, Liverpool might not object to their rivals welcoming Messi and Ronaldo to Manchester. Large spending on players with limited time at the highest level reduces the likelihood of moves for some of the game’s hottest prospects: like Kylian Mbappé, Erling Haaland, and Jadon Sancho. From the FSG’s perspective, the idea of Mbappé running City’s line for nearly a decade is surely far more worrying than the prospect of an Indian summer for Messi.
Liverpool are a club where the long-term plan prevails, sometimes at fault. The board was very reluctant to go for a provisional center in January, and the somewhat mysterious departure of Gini Wijnaldum probably seems to be an issue of age profile. For most, however, having a clear vision can only be a good thing. At 22, Ibrahima Konaté is able to instantly team up with Virgil van Dijk while providing a possible succession plan. Other apparent targets fit a similar description. For example, Patson Daka of Red Bull Salzburg is also 22 years old. He could initially be Firmino’s understudy, with a view to ultimately claiming the place. These are all things that can be done in a totally different budget universe than Messi and Ronaldo.
If either of these two greats made it to the Premier League, only a fool would write them off. That being said, with a pool of young talent in the market, Liverpool might not be too disappointed to see their rivals opt for the short term.