While efforts have been made to make NYCFC a franchise in their own right, much of their image still comes from English Premier League side Manchester City.
Ahead of the 2020/21 European soccer season, Manchester City are among those targeting the signature of Barcelona legend Lionel Messi. The former Argentina international handed in a transfer request in the final week of August, sparking speculation over his immediate future.
Whether or not the four-time Premier League champions can secure him this time around, there is the chance of a clause being activated, whereby Messi could play for – and possibly later coach – NYCFC after a set period with Manchester City.
Manchester City are, of course, one of the wealthiest clubs in the world. They became English champions in 2012, just four years after being bought by Emirati consortium ADUG, and NYCFC have also been indirect beneficiaries of this. One notable instance of recent times is the appointment of former Manchester City man (and three-time Premier League champion) Patrick Vieira as NYCFC’s head coach in 2015.
Incredibly, the Frenchman saw the Bronx Blues leap 15 places in the overall table across two MLS seasons. However, that chapter of Manchester City and NYCFC’s relationship would be comfortably upstaged if said potential for a unique clause in Messi’s contract was to be realized.
What could Messi bring to Manchester City… and later NYCFC?
Those who undertake live US-legal wagering on sporting events – such as the English Premier League – can see how Manchester City have seen their former supremacy wiped out, following the loss of their title to Liverpool. However, it is generally believed that a player of Messi’s caliber will tilt the perceptions over Manchester City’s title chances for the upcoming campaign back in their favor.
Messi played for the Barcelona senior side over 15 uninterrupted years, while netting an astonishing 634 goals over 403 competitive appearances – an average of 1.57 goals per match.
Released in September 2014, this historic video celebrated the upcoming inauguration of NYCFC into the MLS, and its connection to Manchester City.
While Messi may be long overdue for retirement by the time he is in a position to play for NYCFC, there are documented examples of former European greats in their late 30s making a name for themselves in the MLS. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who even performed well enough for LA Galaxy to earn a move back to Italian giants AC Milan – is a shining example in that regard, and Messi’s overall quality will still be firmly in-situ three or four years from now.
Naturally, much of Messi’s hypothetical fortunes at NYCFC would depend on how he might firstly fit into the Manchester City squad, in the event of his move to the Etihad Stadium.
Only a truly great city like New York could prove sufficient in attracting Messi if he was ever to follow in the footsteps of other soccer seniors such as Thierry Henry, and make the journey across the Atlantic from Europe.
Messi is no stranger to “sense of community”
Like the New York Yankees baseball team are to New York, FC Barcelona is a major cornerstone in a hugely proud and metropolitan city. The same can comfortably be said for Manchester City, with its location in a place that expands by the day as England’s third-largest city. As such, Messi is no stranger to the feeling that he shoulders the pride of an entire community, not just a soccer club, whenever he plays.
If anything, it is this feeling of “belonging” upon which Messi truly thrives, while lesser athletes might crumble under such pressure.
The only question now, is whether he can feel the same degree of love for an entirely new fanbase – be that in Manchester, New York or anywhere else. Though the MLS is seen by some elder players as little more than a final paycheck, the whole atmosphere generated in the sports-mad Big Apple would undoubtedly spur Messi on to take the MLS as seriously as any major European league.