Prior to this past summer, the thought of Lionel Messi ever leaving Barcelona was hard to fathom.
Rewind back to 2014, and the prospect was something even more inconceivable.
Particularly if you consider the potential destination for arguably the world’s greatest-ever player would be to team up with Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.
But according to Sky Sports journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, such a deal was a lot closer than we may think.
So close in fact, that he claims Mourinho even convinced Messi that Stamford Bridge should be his new home while the Argentine toyed with the idea of departing the Nou Camp.
It was around that time that Messi was under investigation from the Spanish authorities for tax fraud – a crime he was subsequently found guilty of in 2016.
He has since admitted he considered leaving Spain amid the whole episode, which is how negotiations with Mourinho came to fruition.
The Chelsea boss initially contacted Messi via video chat to put forward his proposal, as di Marzio’s new book: Grand Hotel Calciomercato states.
Chelsea were on the way back up under Mourinho, whose stock was also high after great success at Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
The Blues were willing to stump up Messi’s release clause, which then stood at €250m (this was pre-Neymar to PSG times, too).
Not only that but they were also prepared to offer the forward a mammoth £50m per year contract to come to the Premier League.
Chelsea were not alone in their efforts to tempt Messi to move on, though, as Real Madrid also chanced their arm.
Real President Florentino Perez even went as far as to have an enquiry made on the club’s behalf, only for Messi to snub it outright.
While a move to Barca’s fierce rivals, particularly at a time when Messi was considering leaving Spain altogether, seemed inexplicable, a switch to Chelsea interested him immensely.
Di Marzio claims it was the lure of living in London and the respect Messi held for Mourinho which were the key factors behind him trying to push forward a move.
Ex-Chelsea star turned agent Deco also gave Messi further reasoning for a move, and told him to at least speak with Mourinho, but wanted to arrange the meeting with Roman Abramovich and be involved in mediating between the two parties.
After a meeting with three agents at his own house – none of which were Deco – Mourinho was then able to hold the video call with Messi in which he went on the charm offensive, hailing the Barca star as “the best”.
It was not long following that initial conversation that Messi was welcomed by Mourinho in person at Stamford Bridge for a meeting with Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia, who had been briefed by Blues’ owner Roman Abramovich.
It was there that the outline of a deal was put in place with little standing in its way – other that is, than Messi’s father, Jorge.
Messi’s main representative had, until this stage, been left in the lurch about his son’s ambitions to play elsewhere, while Deco had been cut out completely and played no part in the formal conversations behind the scenes.
After being tipped off by former Barca teammate Cesc Fabregas – who was by then plying his trade at Chelsea – Deco decided to bring the deal to Jorge’s attention, which ultimately led to its collapse and left Chelsea ruing what might have been.
Still, there’s always 2021…
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