Chelsea are alleged to have been close to signing Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi in 2014 in what would have been a world record transfer by triggering his then €250m release clause.
The negotiations with Messi are reported to have taken place soon after an investigation was launched into his tax affairs, which is what prompted him to consider a future outside Spain – as was also thought to be the case when Cristiano Ronaldo eventually joined Juventus in 2018.
Had he left Barcelona in 2014, it would have denied the world of seeing the famous ‘MSN’ trio at Camp Nou alongside Luis Suarez and Neymar. It would also have personally denied Messi his lasting close friendship with Suarez in particular, who arrived at Barcelona that summer.
Signing Messi at that time would have been an enormous coup for Chelsea, with the Argentine arguably at his very best after scoring 133 goals for Barcelona across the previous two seasons alone. A year after Chelsea’s attempts, he netted 58 times as Barça won their second treble.
According to Sky Sports, Chelsea were prepared to pay the €250m release clause, which would have cut Barcelona out of the negotiations – as happened three years later when Paris Saint-Germain successfully poached Neymar with similar tactics. They also agreed to meet Messi’s wage demands, which would set them back far more than the £50m net sum the player wanted.
It is said that Real Madrid had tried to sign Messi the year before, a move that would have seen he and Ronaldo playing in the same team. But where Real were rebuffed by the player owing to his history with Barcelona, Chelsea seemed to have his ear.
The prospect of living in London and the ‘charm’ of then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who had recently returned to Stamford Bridge from Real Madrid, are named as the two major factors in Messi supposedly deciding that the Blues were to be his next club.
Messi first spoke with ex-Barcelona teammate and former Porto and Chelsea star Deco, while a ‘friend’ then helped set up a meeting between Mourinho, said to have been arranged at the latter’s home in London. With that interaction a success, it was passed to chief deal-maker Marina Granovskaia, with the detailed offer prepared in July 2014 to make Messi a Chelsea player.
But the apparent collapse of the proposed deal is just plain bizarre.
Deco is labelled ‘snitch’ in the story, accused of ‘seducing’ and then ‘abandoning’ the deal. Having heard of ongoing contact between Messi and Mourinho from Cesc Fabregas, who had just joined Chelsea from Barcelona, but not able to get through to his old boss himself, Deco is said to have told Jorge Messi, who had seemingly been kept in the dark, about the discussions.
While early negotiations had taken place with intermediaries, who seemingly had Chelsea’s permission to offer a lucrative deal to Messi, Jorge serves as his son’s agent and is credited with blowing it to pieces. When his father called him to ask what was going on, Messi is alleged to have denied the whole thing, meaning that it was then simply off the table.
The only explanation offered over why Messi supposedly folded as he did is that his father’s influence over his career is such that he will do anything he is told, which also ultimately doubled as his defence in the tax investigation as he opted to plead ignorance to the charges.