It’s finally happening: Lionel Messi is going to up sleeves and leave Barcelona. After years of quiet glowering and reserved control, captaining a succession of coaches undeserving of their proximity to his genius, he has had enough. So, though the mes que un mess still hope to change his mind, the oligarchs and autocrats are preparing their pitches for the privilege of paying him £1m a week.
There is a strong chance that Manchester United feign interest before briefing their moral high ground: it is irresponsible to spend money in such uncertain times (other than on dividends). Juventus are an option, but the city limits of Turin are not thought wide enough to contain both his and Cristiano Ronaldo’s ego, while Internazionale hope that watching Ashley Young feint outside before coming inside and hitting the first man – in person – might be enough to seal the deal. Paris Saint-Germain, meanwhile, are offering a master’s in agriculture along with all the usual inducements but, most likely, Messi’s aversion to winning the Champions League and love of ripped jeans will send him into the arms of Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.
Also in England, Jamie Vardy will put an end to all the nonexistent speculation by signing a new contract at Leicester, while Thiago Silva will soon undergo a medical and complete his move from PSG to Chelsea. This gives Frank Lampard yet another dodgy defender to blame when things don’t go as he has demanded they must – but Lampard is nothing if not relentless and will soon add Ben Chilwell into a fascinatingly unreliable mix.
Across London, Arsenal have had enough of not being able to buy Thomas Partey for a price of their choosing – Atlético Madrid are asking for £45m. As such, they will look elsewhere for a midfielder, while also trying to offload the legendary Mattéo Guendouzi, who once played a good pass in the group stages of Europa League.
Elsewhere in the capital, Crystal Palace and QPR have agreed a fee of £14m for Eberechi Eze, a move that will unite the Shamen, Lionel Richie and Faith No More factions of the Holmesdale Fanatics. West Brom were also interested, but failed with a late bid – it’s close, but Tasty Jerk just about beats the Vine – while Fulham pulled out of the race.
Fulham are, though, still keen on Ollie Watkins, the Brentford forward, but will have to compete for his signature with Palace, Aston Villa, West Brom and Leeds. Consequently, Scott E Parker retains an interest in Callum Wilson, who will probably find a way back into the Premier League following Bournemouth’s relegation.
Further north, Everton are in talks with Real Madrid – words not written since the halcyon days of Thomas Gravesen. This time, though, any movement will be in the opposite direction, with Carlo Ancelotti eager to add James Rodríguez to his coterie of midfield speedsters. The Gwladys End are poised for the joyous excitement of an early ripper in a 6-0 win, followed by years of expensive chugging and dashed hopes.