Soccer

Chelsea’s sublime XI if Lionel Messi joins in blockbuster deal instead of Romelu Lukaku

Lionel Messi 'wanted to stay' says Barcelona president

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Lionel Messi shocked the world on Thursady after it emerged that he could not resolve his contract wrangle with Barcelona, and he will subsequently be leaving the club. Chelsea, along with a host of other wealthy sides, have been on high alert, and it is now believed that the diminutive Argentine could be a genuine alternative to Romelu Lukaku up top.

With Barcelona under immense financial pressure to shift some of their highest earners off the wage bill, renewing Messi’s lucrative new deal eventually proved a bridge too far.

As a result, perhaps the greatest player of all time is now available for free, considerably cheaper than the £110million bid reportedly in the pipeline for Lukaku.

According to AS, Messi now represents a serious alternative for Roman Abramovich, and the Russian is keen to set up a meeting to see what’s what.

Without further ado, Express Sport takes a look at Chelsea’s sublime XI if Messi signs instead of Lukaku.

JUST IN: Barcelona’s new-look line-up without Lionel Messi as exit confirmed

Goalkeeper – Mendy

Senegal international Edouard Mendy has emerged as the saviour for Chelsea’s short but tumultuous Kepa Arrizabalaga era, the most expensive keeper in the world who was never far away from a howler.

Having notched 16 clean sheets last season, Mendy is going nowhere but between the sticks when the opening day of the season rolls around.

Defence – Chilwell, Rudiger, Thiago Silva, Azpilicueta, James

Although Thomas Tuchel was often partial to centre-back rotation last season, the central trio of Antonio Rudiger, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta were the most trusted, while it was also the one to secure Chelsea’s Champions League final glory.

After initial experimentation, the German has also seen the light when it comes to Reece James and Ben Chilwell, two of England’s brightest young defenders.

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The pair will likely operate as wing-backs next campaign, as important to the side going forward as they will be in defence.

Chelsea’s back-line could look different if the proposed signing of Jules Kounde gains further traction, with Azpilicueta’s spot on the right of the three potentially hanging in the balance.

Midfield – Jorginho, Kante

With N’Golo Kante previously heralded as the star and Jorginho the unsung hero, roles could be set to reverse in the wake of the Italian’s Euro 2020 performances.

The metronomic passer is finally being recognised as a key asset to any midfield he forms a part of, having mastered the art of setting the tempo of games.

His partner, Kante, will be workmanlike as ever, with little sign of his engine running out of puff despite his thirtieth birthday now disappearing in the rear-view mirror.

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Attack – Mount, Messi, Pulisic

It is no secret that Tuchel has an embarrassment of riches in attack, although Messi’s name could simply never be left off the team-sheet – unless the Argentine wanted it to be.

With more than 600 Barcelona goals and six, yes six, Balon D’or awards, the 34-year-old’s quality is undeniable, although he is still unproven in any other team.

Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic could be the lucky duo to flank this summer’s Copa America winner, having both worked their way into Tuchel’s good books.

More stars like Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi would also be waiting in the wings in an attacking contingent which would give any defence nightmares.

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