What a mental debate this is.
Friday brought us news from Spain that Chelsea are interested in signing former Barcelona man Lionel Messi and could even try and team him up with £110m striker Romelu Lukaku if his move from Inter goes through.
There are, however, suggestions that Blues owner Roman Abramovich will have to pick just one superstar to add to his squad this summer, and in what could be the biggest first-world problem of all time, he will have to decide whether to splash £110m on Lukaku or give Messi the biggest contract in Premier League history.
It’s fair to say that there are worse problems to have.
The dilemma for Chelsea is this: do you sign the player perfectly suited for Thomas Tuchel’s system, or pursue the once-in-a-lifetime deal for arguably the best player to ever kick a ball?
Would he give Tuchel what he wants? Not even slightly. Would he answer Chelsea’s prayers for a fox in the box? Not exactly.
Should Abramovich care? Absolutely not.
What Messi would bring is the one thing Chelsea need more than most – goals. He might not be a target man striker, but this is a player who left Barcelona with a record of 672 goals in 778 games. Should he move to the Bridge, Messi would probably bag more than the seven goals that saw Jorginho win the club’s Golden Boot last season. Just a hunch.
Importantly in this dream scenario, Messi could provide those goals from anywhere on the pitch. Last season, he was primarily used as a central striker under Ronald Koeman, and 30 goals from 35 games suggests the experiment went pretty well.
We all know that Messi isn’t an out-and-out striker and he instead spends most of his time floating around in search of possession, but that’s actually a good thing for a Chelsea side who are now starting to see the best of Kai Havertz as a false nine.
While it may not be Tuchel’s preferred tactic, Havertz could easily continue as Chelsea’s starting striker and rotate with those midfielders behind him, but instead of chances falling to Timo Werner, they’d be falling to Messi.
This isn’t a slight on Werner, who has been far more impactful than rival fans would have you believe, but he’s not Messi. Duh.
There are tactical reasons for pursuing Messi over Lukaku, but another thing that works in his favour is the fact that he’s 34 and will soon need replacing himself… perhaps next summer when a certain Frankenstein-esque Norwegian becomes available for a little over £60m.
If Chelsea splash £110m on Lukaku now, the 28-year-old Belgian will be their starting striker for the next five years before leaving for pennies, all while Erling Haaland leaves Borussia Dortmund to join one of Chelsea’s direct rivals.
Signing Messi now would still leave a Haaland-sized void in the squad next summer, and we all know just how much Abramovich wants to bring the young Dortmund striker in.
Messi sees his future in Major League Soccer or perhaps in Argentina, so why not pay him for a few years of elite service and then allow him to mosey off into the sunset to live out the final dream of his career, and bring in Haaland to replace him?
Chelsea should be giving serious consideration into chasing Messi over Lukaku. Sure, the latter makes infinitely more sense, but when the other option is signing a six-time Ballon d’Or winner, you sometimes have to make exceptions.
The Blues have the finances to make this work and a long-term vision which would not actually be impacted by signing an ageing Messi. The chances of a deal happening are obviously slim, but Chelsea would be wise to keep trying.