Most people believed that with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s announcement that a deal to bring Lionel Messi to Stamford Bridge was a financial impossibility, the transfer rumors would end. That is not the case. Messi has, with the simple click of a button on social media, messed with the minds of fans and pundits alike, not to mention with Mourinho. The Barcelona star made a splash when he decided to follow several instagram pages, among them two Premier League clubs. By following both Chelsea and Manchester City, who are linked to rumors saying they are attempting to lure him away from Barca, Messi breathed new life into the dying speculation about his heading to England.
It is still as far-fetched as it was before the instagram follow. For January at least, the nature of his contract would set the price for a buyout at around £205 million. Attempting to make that deal would cause the clubs to be in violation of the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, as was pointed out by Mourinho in his statement at the end of the year. Reality or not, the instagram incident has everyone talking again about whether Messi will be leaving the Barcelona fold.
In truth, the incident looks more like a gesture designed to poke at club manager Luis Enrique, with whom he has had some much-discussed conflicts of late. It was one way to get everyone else to talk about a possible departure from Barcelona without Messi having to say a thing. It means that club management will be asked about it at every turn, and that the incidents surrounding the reported rift between Enrique and himself will be reviewed and discussed in the media as well. In the end, it cannot be held against him as a disrespectful move against anyone or against the club, but it sends a message nonetheless.
The firing of director of football Andoni Zubizaretta and subsequent resignation of Charles Puyol has media attention already focused on Barcelona. With speculation already buzzing about why Messi was left on the bench to start against Real Sociedad and whether Messi missing training the next day was related, the instagram move timing was too perfect for it to have been a coincidence. Now, people are talking about whether a training ground argument over a refereeing decision during a five-on-five made by Enrique was the impetus for that chain of events, or whether it is just a matter of searching for something to point to that would justify a departure by the star.
Small disagreements or major problems, Messi knows that it is the transfer window and the world is watching. He is giving them a show and messing with the minds of fans and management of his own club and those he has linked himself to via instagram. It looks on the surface like a game, but tempers are getting hot all around. This is January, and the feeding frenzy is already in place as it is every year. Messi is managing to stir the pot a little without actually saying a word. The alleged battle between manager and player may be real or imagined, but any move to Chelsea or elsewhere in January is virtually unthinkable. This summer, however, may be a different matter, and all of this just prelude to the storm.
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