Lionel Messi is one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet. Even in the United States, where soccer isn’t one of the four major pro sports, he is in the pantheon of today’s stars.
Now, imagine one of the world’s greatest soccer players plying his trade right here in New York City.
It could happen.
According to ESPN correspondents, Rodrigo Faez and Moises Llorens, Manchester City of England’s Premier League are “weighing up” a long-term contract for the Argentinian talisman that would see him spend three years in England before moving to New York City FC in MLS, which is the sister club of Manchester City.
Both teams are owned by City Football Group, which owns several soccer teams across the world including City and NYCFC.
Messi shocked the soccer world earlier this week when he alerted Barcelona — the Spanish club he’s spent the past 16 seasons with — that he does not want to return.
It was with the Catalonian giants that he became one of the greatest soccer players not only of his generation alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, but of all-time. He’s won six Ballon d’Or as soccer’s best player of the season, two FIFA Best Men’s Player of the Year awards, 10 La Liga titles and 4 Champions League crowns.
Manchester City is considered the favorites to sign the 33-year-old because it will provide a reunification with his former manager, Pep Guardiola, who spent four seasons at Barcelona from 2008-2012. He was brought on as Manchester City’s manager in 2016 and is under contract through 2021.
Bringing on Messi would provide City the opportunity to extend its power on the European stage. While the club has won four Premier League titles since 2011, they have yet to take that next step and make the Champions League Final — which is the largest domestic competition in Europe and one of the most followed annual soccer tournaments in the world.
After his time at City, Messi would make the move to NYCFC and MLS where he would not serve as an ambassador for the game, but would quickly become the best player in the league — even at the age of 36.
His arrival would continue to grow MLS’ popularity in the United States, and provide the league with its most transcendental star ever. The league has brought on aging international superstars in year’s past to help improve its popularity, whether its been Thierry Henry to the New York Red Bulls, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to LA Galaxy, or Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo to NYCFC.