As soon as Pep Guardiola touched down in Manchester the speculation that Lionel Messi would follow him was completely unsurprising, yet with the Argentine’s contractual situation still unclear at Barcelona it is interesting to look at just what demands he is making before signing once more.
Arguably the Blaugrana’s greatest ever footballer is in a state of contractual limbo as he has just one season left on a deal which expires in June of 2018.
This is a monumental issue for those in power at the Camp Nou, because at this point the player holds all of the cards in this situation.
Any potential transfer fee immediately decreases in value with clubs acutely aware that the player could perhaps be available as a free agent in just a matter of months.
For some context it is worth remembering that Sir Alex Ferguson’s opening offer for the reigning Footballer of the Year in 2012, Robin van Persie, was a mere 14 million euros.
It also hands a player the opportunity to gauge what he is worth and he can make demands of a club to determine just how much his current employers want to keep him around.
For a player of Messi’s calibre, it seems bizarre that this situation is playing out in such a public and untidy manner but just what is the delay?
What is the 29-year-old requesting that is causing such a halt in progress with regards to the negotiations?
Many would immediately assume this is a financial issue but that couldn’t be further from the truth, because gone are the days when the salaries of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were a constant point of competition.
What the diminutive playmaker wants is something that is perhaps even harder for Los Cules to promise, and to fully comprehend we have to look back to the club’s most recent golden period.
Xavi Hernandez was the symbol of Barcelona’s golden era under the tutelage of Guardiola with the central midfielder running games from the middle of the pitch for years.
He dictated the tempo creatively and opened up space for others, and he made that wonderful team tick – yet he has never been replaced.
Ivan Rakitic and Andre Gomes are talented technically, but not on anywhere near the same level, and though they often provide far more industrious work, that simply doesn’t balance out against the playmaking of the former captain.
Thiago Alcantara appeared the natural heir but impatience got the better of the young Spaniard as he moved to Bavaria to seek pastures new.
With no natural replacement signed or produced, the next step was to hand the baton to Messi and leave him in charge of the team’s creativity.
He would be entrusted with bringing everything together in addition to helping Neymar and Luis Suarez acclimatise to their roles in the front three, and this is what has led to the current stalemate.
Messi has been over-relied upon throughout Luis Enrique’s tenure and it is believed he is now tired of this dynamic.
It isn’t a secret that he is approaching the final years of his career, at least the stage where he is at the peak of his powers, yet like Xavi did before him Messi wants to be involved with a footballing project that is at the very highest level.
Uncertainty remains about Enrique’s position as coach although whether or not he stays, or whether Jorge Sampaoli or Thomas Tuchel takes over, would have a minimal impact on Messi.
What he is most concerned about is the midfield, the difference from the current iteration of Barcelona to the team that won six titles in a season and defined a generation of football lies in that area.
The forward wants to know what the club are going to do to address the issue in the summer and he is determined that the hierarchy reinforces so that he is surrounded by the best players in world football.
In the transfer market Manchester City face far fewer obstacles than the Catalan giants and it is no secret that if Messi was to head to the north-west of England a team would then be constructed to his and Guardiola’s specifications.
At Barcelona, he doesn’t want or need this, his salary isn’t a big issue, nor is his coach.
All he wants is to finally be released from the shackles of being the team’s security blanket.