Lionel Messi almost joined Chelsea in 2004 after a chat with José Mourinho
Football could have been very different
Lionel Messi came close to joining Chelsea in 2004 after speaking to José Mourinho, according to journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, who made the claim in his new book, Grand Hotel Calciomercato.
"In 2004 Messi was very close to moving to Chelsea because he wanted to play with Mourinho. There was a long conversation between them. This was the first time he wanted to leave Barcelona," Di Marzio writes.
Mourinho has never coached Messi, missing out on the Barcelona job in 2008 to his former colleague and now long time rival Pep Guardiola, but the Portuguese has always admired him.
In a recent interview with JOE, Mourinho explained that during Messi's second attempt at leaving Barcelona this summer, he could not sign the Argentine because: "Messi could only go to a team that doesn't respect Financial Fair Play, so not Tottenham for sure."
But let's imagine Messi had joined José Mourinho's Chelsea as a 17 year old, and how different football might have been.
Messi himself will have had great success under Mourinho, no doubt, but would he have been moulded into more of an out and out winger than the dazzling free roaming number 10 we have seen over the past 10 years?
It's entirely possible the 'false 9' phenomena never happens, as Pep Guardiola is without that missing piece of the jigsaw at Barcelona.
It's also likely that Pep's Barça do not dominate to the same extent, without the genius who knitted everything together so perfectly. Real Madrid might have a few more league titles. Manchester United might have a few less.
Maybe Mourinho wouldn't have transformed into the ultra-defensive coach we saw at Inter and United, and at times at Tottenham - a tactical shift borne from his frustration at Barceloan hiring Guardiola over him.
I guess we'll never know.