Barcelona's Lionel Messi walks on the pitch during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Valencia Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. (Joan Monfort/AP)
There are certain athletes whose brilliance make them truly once-in-a-lifetime players. Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods. Venus Williams. Mike Trout. To name a few.
Messi, standout for Barcelona and Argentina’s national team, is another.
To see Messi dribble is to imagine Van Gogh painting: a precision mixed with fluidity that seems both planned and chaotic at the same time.
To see him pick a corner of a goal and hit it with a shot is to imagine what it must have been like for engineers when building the Duomo in Florence. You look and say ...“how?” over and over.
To watch defenses fall apart trying to figure out how to stop him is like watching leaves being blown around a driveway: No sense of direction, no way to know when they will stop going in circles.
I bring up Messi because if reports are accurate, he may be free to sign with any team in the world, yes that includes Atlanta United, in a very short window because he is within six months of the end of his contract with Barcelona. That means he can sign a pre-contract with any club he wishes with no buyout or transfer fee that must be paid to the Catalan giants to acquire him.
Messi has been quoted as saying that he dreams of playing in the U.S. one day.
I’m sure that the millions of soccer supporters in the U.S. have dreamed of seeing Messi play here for an MLS team.
Let’s say he wants to shoulder feint the other teams with enough money that could pay for him such as Manchester City and ... well, I’m sure there are others.
Let’s say MLS is his preferred destination.
It’s pointless to try to figure out which team he would play for.
The typical factors of commercial possibilities and lifestyle simply don’t apply to someone who is known by most people in the world and has made enough in salary and endorsements to make himself as comfortable as possible wherever he happens to be.
It does seem that there are only a few possibilities, based upon which owners could pay Messi’s salary, and have franchises with large fanbases and stadiums that Messi is used to playing in front of, and have shown a commitment to consistent success. Those are Seattle and Atlanta United, with New England, Chicago and Charlotte thrown into the mix because those teams play in NFL stadiums. It’s going to take a lot of ticket sales and jersey purchases to pay Messi’s likely salary. Sold out 20,000-seat stadiums probably won’t cut it. That’s not a knock on other teams and their ownership and fanbases. Messi could sign with LAFC, or Inter Miami, or Portland or Sporting KC. Those are fantastic franchises with passionate fan bases. Who knows?
Much like when the league signed David Beckham, and promised him ownership in an expansion franchise, it may take something similar from the league to secure Messi.
Until it happens, if it happens, it’s fun to dream.
And please continue watching Messi.
He’s a once-in-generation talent.
About the Author
Doug Roberson covers the Atlanta United and Major League Soccer.