After Lionel Messi made it clear via fax that he wants to leave Barcelona, various reports have indicated that Man City are the favourites to sign him if Messi does leave Camp Nou. Along with the chance to reunite with Pep Guardiola, City are one of the very few clubs who can afford Lionel Messi’ astronomical wages. Signing Messi would automatically make Man City the favourites to win the Premier League and probably the Champions League too but Guardiola will not find it easy to fit the Argentine superstar in a team already full of stars.
Messi in recent years has operated in a right sided role for Barcelona often moving to the center in order to influence the game more as Barcelona have struggled to keep possession and control the midfield. At City, he would not need to replicate this role, as Guardiola’s team are comfortable in possession and generally dominate the central areas of the pitch. Also, this right of center area is generally occupied by Kevin de Bruyne who is key to City’s attacking game. So, Guardiola might choose to play Lionel Messi upfront as a False 9 as he did many years ago at Barcelona.
Lionel Messi as the False 9
This does leave out Man City’s best striker, Sergio Aguero, so Pep might be reluctant to try this formation at first. He can choose to continue to play Messi on the right as he does for Barcelona and allow Kyle Walker a more attacking role just like Dani Alves did for Pep’s Barcelona many many years ago. This would enable Walker to provide the width on the right for City, allowing a more free role for Messi. The defence have to reshuffle to cover for Walker, either with the left back moving central as a third defender just like Abidal did all those years ago for Barcelona.
Lionel Messi on the right for Man City
Guardiola will certainly have a challenge fitting in Messi with all his other players to get the best out of his team. Also, a bigger challenge for City would be to sign defensive reinforcements which have been their biggest weakness so far under Guardiola. They especially need a center back and a full back which are the two areas they are considerably weaker than Liverpool, their main rival for the Premier League. If they do sign Messi, can they sign the defensive players they need without flouting FFP rules again?