Much of the transfer window just gone was filled with speculation about the future of Lionel Messi. After countless disagreements with the Barcelona board, the Argentine scoring sensation looked set to finally leave the Camp Nou after a staggering spell at the club.
However, with teams across the globe clamouring for his signature, Messi decided to stay with Barcelona.
But it’s not the first time the striker has looked like he could leave Catalonia during his illustrious, trophy-laden career.
And while it was Manchester City most heavily linked this summer, it could have moved to the Premier League earier this decade with Chelsea.
Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio has now lifted the lid on the “box-office” phone call that almost persuaded Messi to swap Barcelona for Stamford Bridge.
In his new book Grand Hotel Calciomercato, Di Marzio reveals the talks between Messi and Mourinho, when the player was desperate to leave La Liga after a tax evasion probe was opened against him in 2013.
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During that summer, it was suggested that Real Madrid attempted to put a package together for the Barcelona legend, but ultimatey came up short.
And 12 months later, Chelsea showed their hand: “Messi had that sort of tummy ache, and he seriously thought about saying goodbye to Barcelona and the country that adopted him,” an excerpt from his book reads (via Sky Sports).
“To go where? To Chelsea! For two essential reasons: the charm of London and the respect for Mourinho, Blues boss at the time. It’s January 2014, we’re right in the middle of that tax fraud probe, with the World Cup in Brazil edging ever closer.
“His temptation is sparked by rage towards the Spanish tax,” Di Marzio added. “A few months later, the feeling is materialised in the form of a phone call with former team-mate Deco, now an agent after recently retiring and spending two years at Stamford Bridge with [Roman] Abramovich at the helm.
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“A lunch date is set up in London, at Mourinho’s mansion. On one side, the three intermediaries that talk through the project and its feasibility, on the other side the Chelsea boss, who still struggles to believe what’s going on.
“So, what can you do to make him lose all doubt? A FaceTime call, with Mourinho and Messi face to face. Box office stuff.”
The call is then detailed, with Mourinho telling a stunned Messi he should stay where he is and not lose the chance of a statue, before he makes his play.
The conversation continues with Mourinho: “If one morning you wake up, you have your breakfast at the training ground but the coffee doesn’t taste the same, the sky suddenly turns grey, you don’t like your car anymore, you feel sad on your way home, you’re not happy, your family is not happy, well, in that dark and gloomy moment of your life… then yes, you will have to open the gate of happiness again. And behind that gate, you will find me, Jose Mourinho, waiting for you!”
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It is then suggested Chelsea paid his €250milion release clause, agreed personal terms and sorted the image rights ahead of the imminent transfer.
But, according to Di Marzio, the deal collapsed when Deco then brought the deal to Messi’s primary agent, his father Jorge.
After that Messi denied any of the talks and the deal collased like “a soap bubble that hits the floor”.
Ultimately a Messi transfer saga ended as they always seem to do, with Messi not completing a transfer.
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