As soon as FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi spoke about his dream to play in the United States, you could almost hear the gears start to turn all across our soccer bubble.
Such news quickly elicits thoughts of where he might turn up (from the reasonable to the fanciful), and media types of all stripes certainly aren't immune to this.
Obviously, it's a bit silly to discuss fit regarding Messi. He's not just any cog; he's one of the most elusive, clinical attackers of all-time. He fits anywhere he wants and anywhere he goes. You could plop him into any MLS side and I'm sure they'd work it out just fine. However, there are plenty of other factors that will eliminate potential suitors from contention, so the question becomes at least as much "Who could land him?" as it is "Where does he fit the best?"
For example, not every MLS team would have room for another Designated Player (because let's not kid ourselves about the cost). I could think of a thousand reasons to send him to Inter Miami CF and the thought of him combining up with Seattle's stars is utterly captivating, but neither currently has the particular roster spot that would be required. However, that can change rather quickly and who wouldn't make room for Messi?! With the Miami possibility, there's always the David Beckham element, overall lifestyle, the club's spending trajectory and more and new rumor of a possible Messi-Luis Suarez partnership in South Beach.
Then there's the spending habits of some thrifty clubs voluntarily pulling themselves out of any high-stakes transfer race, plus all sorts of off-field issues that will favor certain destinations over others. Finally, one would assume Messi would prefer to chase titles.
Not every variable points to the same landing spot, so we're basically comparing apples to oranges. And bananas. And mangoes and honeydews, too. Each of the variants below has their own selling point(s) to go with a DP slot to play with (or a clear road to one).
I know some fine folks will complain we always find a way to include the Galaxy, but c'mon, this one makes too much sense to ignore. They'll be searching for a new Designated Player if loan ace Cristian Pavon proves too pricey to keep (a fair possibility) and if Messi can't get Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez going, I don't know who can. And that's before we even get to the obvious lifestyle draws (the beach, the glitz, warm weather, great food, etc.).
Thierry Henry was Messi's Barcelona teammate when the Argentine superstar's career first exploded. The Impact boss has remained a big brother figure (in the good way, not the Orwell reference way) ever since, so a Stade Saputo reunion shouldn't seem out of the question. The club would need to figure some things out from a soccer standpoint, but that's "a good problem" for management if there ever was one.
New York Red Bulls
Some observers might shrug the Red Bulls off as a target for various reasons, but my first thought was he'd solve a lot of their problems from day one. The team's attack had big days here and there, but was more often stale in 2020. The Red Bulls suffered six shutout losses and settled for four 1-all draws. That's a large portion of their schedule where one timely goal might have made a world of difference.
New York City FC
Oh man, what I wouldn't give for a genuine transfer tug-of-war over Messi between the Big Apple rivals. That would be highly entertaining. Truth be told, NYCFC are probably the better New York fit. One doesn't need much imagination to envision the dazzling movement and interplay that would ensue if Messi was surrounded by Valentin Castellanos, Heber and Maxi Moralez. That would be downright scary/entertaining as hell.
There's really nothing in the Union's transfer history suggesting they'd make this leap and I can't say he'd be attracted to the city, so this entry comes from the warning track by the left-field foul pole. But purely from an on-field fit perspective, Philly might be the most appetizing. The thought of Messi being the one who steps into this collective should terrify everyone associated with every other MLS club. But yeah, it's probably too suitable to be true.
We already know the Reds will splash cash, and that little Canadian flag hint on the Taylor Twellman tweet above automatically makes Toronto FC a prime suspect. Most importantly from a soccer viewpoint, Messi would slip straight into the Reds formation about as easily as he could into Philadelphia's. And any addition that would actually increase the time and space enjoyed by Alejandro Pozuelo is one to chase. This is another club that becomes the stuff of nightmares if they can lure Messi.