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ON THE DOTTED LINE

Remembering the clubs that very nearly got Lionel Messi’s signature

After Messi signed a new contract last year it doesn't look like he'll ever leave Barcelona, but there was a time when he came very close

It’s a brave man who tries to prise Lionel Messi away from Barcelona these days.

The Argentine star signed a new contract last year with an eye-watering £626million release clause.

You could get X Factor’s Wagner to sing you happy birthday three million times for that much.

That’s a tough decision but I think everyone would be going with Messi.


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Can you imagine seeing this in any other kit than Barcelona’s?

Getty Images - Getty
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Can you imagine seeing this in any other kit than Barcelona’s?

Anyway, down the years there have been people crazy enough to try and sign Barca’s magical no.10.

I’m not talking the Manchester clubs outlandish attempts to throw as much paper as they can find at him and hope he signs the deal, there were times when clubs came very close to actually getting Leo to pull on their jersey.

Messi broke onto the scene with Barca’s first team in 2005 and managed to establish himself as a starter in a front three with Samuel Eto’o and the king Ronaldinho.

Let’s just say it was a bit a special.

Within a year Messi was firmly in the world class bracket of players and any chance of Barca letting him slip through grasp had vanished.

A rare picture of Messi wearing Nike boots

Getty - Contributor
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A rare picture of Messi wearing Nike boots

However, while he was learning the game and honing his wand of a left foot, like every young player, Messi desperately needed game time, so here’s a brief rundown of where we could realistically have seen the greatest footballer of our time playing which wasn’t Barcelona.

Let’s start with the most ridiculous place you could possibly imagine Messi playing – Glasgow’s Ibrox Stadium.

If you can believe it, and it’s all true, Rangers were very close pulling off the scoop of the century.

McLeish could have given Messi so much

News Group Newspapers Ltd
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McLeish could have given Messi so much

Alex McLeish was pulling out all the stops to try and get the prodigious 18-year-old to move to Scotland, which mainly involved keeping him indoors, not letting him see the weather and not exposing him to David Weir.

The Rangers boss was hoping to woo Barcelona into letting him have Messi on a season long loan to toughen the young lad up, or we imagine it went something like that.

The now five time Ballon d’Or winner had recently been handed a new contract with a €150million buy-out clause and Frank Rijkaard decided against sanctioning a move to cold, wet Glasgow to learn the trade from the likes of Alan Hutton, Charlie Adam and Barry Ferguson.

To be honest we can see why Lionel skipped this one.

So what you’re saying is, you didn’t want to come and play with this absolute technician Leo?

News Group Newspapers Ltd
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So what you’re saying is, you didn’t want to come and play with this absolute technician Leo?

When Juventus came calling it must have been a lot more tempting for Barca’s record goalscorer.

The only problem being that he was actually playing against them when they enquired.

As the story goes, Barcelona were playing Juventus in the pre-season Joan Gamper trophy.

An 18-year-old Messi was so good against the Old Lady that Fabio Capello actually asked Frank Rijkaard after just 25 minutes of the match if he could take him to Turin on loan.

Rijkaard quickly told Capello that he was barking up the wrong tree and this boy would go on to be a Barcelona legend.

Messi received a standing ovation from the Nou Camp that day as he dazzled the Juventus defence and Capello himself.

Never let go Messi

AP:Associated Press
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Never let go Messi

Finally, and this is the one that will give Blaugrana fans the biggest jitters, Inter Milan actually put in a bid which met Messi’s buy-out and the clubs came very close to a deal which would see the Argentine link up with Roberto Mancini at the San Siro.

In 2006 Inter were still near the top of the European footballing tree and could boast players like Adriano, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Figo and Patrick Vieira to attract the young star.

There was also a host of Messi’s countrymen who could have been used to persuade him to swap Spain for Italy.

Hernan Crespo, Julio Cruz, Esteban Cambiasso, Walter Samuel, Javier Zanetti all played for Inter and a word in the ear from those Argentine legends could have swayed Messi.

There was a strong Argentinian connection at Inter in 2006

EPA
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There was a strong Argentinian connection at Inter in 2006

But as former Barcelona president Joan Laporta has revelaed, it was the potential for glory at the Nou Camp that convinced Messi’s father Jorge to keep his boy in Catalunya.

Inter meeting the buy-out clause, which was ridiculous at the time for a teenager, was the spark that led to astronomical release clauses in Spain.

“He’ll be happy here, he’ll get glory,” Laporta told Messi senior. “There, he’ll only win financially. You son is destined to be the greatest in history and here he’ll have a team to help get there.”


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Neymar literally had to leave Barcelona to get out of Messi’s shadow

AFP
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Neymar literally had to leave Barcelona to get out of Messi’s shadow

After eight league titles, five Copa del Reys, four Champions League triumphs and five Ballon d’Or awards as well as countless individual records broken, Laporta was right that Messi would go on to be the greatest footballer the world has ever seen.

Just imagine if he had moved to Inter and a couple of years later Jose Mourinho had come along and converted him into a defensive midfielder.

The world would be a truly different place.


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