Messi may be tempted to Italy by tax benefits

ROME – The ongoing questions around the superstar footballer Lionel Messi's next club may be answered by a move to Italy due to the country’s tax benefits for the super-rich, according to La Repubblica. 

 After announcing on Tuesday that he desired to activate a clause in his contract and thereby leave his club of 19 years, Barcelona, Lionel Messi, 33, has sparked the interest of all big clubs around the world. The clause, if applicable, would entitle the Argentine to depart for free from Spain and European heavyweights such as Manchester City and United, Paris Saint Germain, and Italy’s Inter and Juventus are all reportedly weighing up the prospect.  

 The reason many Italian football fans believe and hope that Messi may opt for a move to Juve or Inter, is that like his Portuguese foil Ronaldo, the tax benefits would be enormous. In 2017, a financial law was introduced that would mean that the super-rich can pay a maximum of 100,000 euros of earnings from outside Italy, which would apply to many of Messi’s sponsorship deals, and there are many given he has the eighth most followers on Instagram in the world.

 The Italian club most likely to secure an historic deal for the player many consider the greatest to play the game are Inter Milan, whose Chinese chairman Steven Zhang, 28, is eyeing up a statement signing never before seen in the world of football. Earlier this year, a stunt was organised to portray the silhouette of the Argentine’s signature celebration onto the façade of Milan’s famous Duomo in a promotion bid for a game between Inter and Napoli. Ever since then, fanciful rumours of a deal to secure the influence of Chinese soft power in European football, bringing the world’s highest paid athlete to Inter Milan, have been rife in Italian media. The suitability of a free-playing and highly creative player into a team managed by the rigid and defensive Antonio Conte, however, suggests round pegs and square holes.

 A more likely fit tactically for Messi on Italian turf is the nation’s super-club and consecutive nine-time league winners, Juventus, managed by famously elegant ex-midfielder Andrea Pirlo. Although Pirlo has 10-days of professional coaching experience, his side’s 4-3-3 formation, and possessive style would suit the increasingly stingy energy reserves of Messi, who would likely have far more freedom to involve himself in the game at his disposal, the way he has operated in the latter years of his career in Barcelona.

 The most tantalising prospect of a move to Turin is however, the possibility of Messi’s lining up alongside rival megastar and five-time Ballon D’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo. Perhaps it is the stuff of schoolchildren’s imagination, but the financial benefits through sponsorship would mean the enormous seven and eight-figure wages for the two greatest footballers of the modern age, might be far more manageable. Added to that is the fact that Juventus’s team sponsor is Adidas, whose pinup is Messi himself. Indeed, after the landmark signing of Ronaldo in 2018, much of the output of the 100 million euro transfer and enormous wage packet was invested with the provisory hope of shirt sales and a worldwide boost to the club’s status. The potential benefit of both Messi and Ronaldo appearing in the same team would exponentially increase all those financial and brand advantages while immediately placing the Juventus team in the history books.  

 The future for Messi is all but certain however, as both FC Barcelona and the Spanish League, La Liga, have stated that he did not inform the club of his wishes before the clause’s stated date of June 10, meant to signify the end of the season. Messi is arguing that this date would necessarily be changed due to the significant extension of the season due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and that his submission of departure by Burofax on Aug. 25 is therefore valid. It is clear that the six-time Ballon D’Or winner is unlikely to budge from his position, especially given that he did not appear for the beginning of season Coronavirus testing at Barcelona yesterday, meaning that he will not participate in the club’s pre-season training.

 Despite the excitement of fans around Europe that hope that Messi might come to their country’s league let alone their club, Italy’s chances are slim at this current moment. Manchester City are outright favourites to capture the Argentine as a result of their manager, Pep Guardiola, and his links with Messi, having overseen his stratospheric rise from Beatle-haired teenager to global goal juggernaut while manager of Barcelona a decade ago. Furthermore, City are owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Group, while the other frontrunners PSG have the weight of Qatari finances to help offset the considerable sums that the world’s highest paid footballer would demand. However, the statement from La Liga on Sunday that sided with Barcelona’s board on the clausular debate, unsurprising given the importance of Messi to the league’s brand, has further muddied waters and dampened any immediate hopes of any imminent and historic transfer.  

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi faced off in La Liga
Pep Guardiola instructs Messi while Barcelona manager