How do you replace arguably the greatest player that has ever lived?
That is the question that Barcelona could face this summer after Lionel Messi dropped the bombshell of the year by announcing his desire to leave the club following their humiliating end to their league season.
Some United supporters dared to dream about Messi ending up at Old Trafford, but MEN Sports understand such a deal is implausible despite repeated links from all over the world. There are more obvious destinations for the 33-year-old, one of which is Eastlands.
City have long been confident that Messi could move to the Etihad if he was to ever leave Barcelona and the Blues, along with United, are one of the few sides that could afford the mammoth financial package to bring the Argentine to the Premier League.
United fans are still awaiting their first major signing of the window having watched City bolster their ranks with Nathan Ake and Ferran Torres while Chelsea have landed Timo Werner, Malang Sarr, Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech, with Kai Havertz also set to seal a move to Stamford Bridge.
United remain firmly focussed on signing Borussia Dortmund superstar Jadon Sancho but are yet to reach a breakthrough in negotiations for the England international. MEN Sport understands there is still no resolution on the 20-year-old Sancho’s salary expectations in discussions with his agent Emeka Obasi and the intermediary fee demanded by Marco Lichtsteiner, acting on behalf of Borussia Dortmund.
United are yet to even approach the issue of Dortmund’s asking price for the former Manchester City winger.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the United hierarchy should be aware that a new contender for Sancho’s signature may emerge if Messi does cut ties with Barcelona this summer.
The 33-year-old’s departure would leave Barcelona with a huge void to fill in their forward line and signing one of the world’s most promising talents in Sancho could help ease the pain of losing their club icon. Barcelona fans have been enraged by the news surrounding Messi’s potential departure and a statement signing like Sancho would help improve the club’s relationship with its supporters.
Regardless of whether Messi leaves for free, his exit would free up a significant portion of Barcelona’s wage budget which could be used to tempt Sancho into a switch to Spain.
Dortmund was the club Barcelona turned to after losing Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain, landing Ousmane Dembele for a fee in the region of £130million and Sancho previously said he is open to playing in La Liga.
A move to the Spanish side may not be as appealing now as it might have been in years gone by but the opportunity to be the club’s new poster boy would be difficult for any player to turn down.
Five weeks of the 10-week transfer window have passed and it’s approaching make or break time for a deal to bring Sancho to Old Trafford.
United have been insistent for several months that £100m+ plus deals are simply not part of reality this summer.
However, if Barcelona do line up Sancho as Messi’s replacement, they may not have a choice.