Dario Felman column: Messi made the right choice, & Italy poached a future Argentine star

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Dario Felman column: Messi made the right choice, & Italy poached a future Argentine star
Messi is heading to Miami
Messi is heading to Miami
Reuters
In his latest column for Tribal Football, a website collaborating with Flashscore, Valencia and Boca Juniors legend Dario Felman backs Leo Messi choosing Inter Miami, ponders if Gabri Veiga is suited to Premier League football, laments Karim Benzema leaving Real Madrid for Al Ittihad and lauds Mateo Retegui.

Lionel Messi and his decision to go to Inter Miami

I think it is a very good and very correct decision by Leo Messi to go to Inter Miami. Those that are close to him and know him and care for him, like myself, see him as a good example of a decent 'personita' (little chap). He has a wonderful family, including his father and mother.

He has made the best and the sweetest decision of his life. He has turned down the enormous salary of 400-500 million euros offered in Saudi Arabia to go and live instead in Miami, a city where a lot of Spanish is spoken. Had he gone to Saudi Arabia, he would have been living with his family in a gilded cage, where he wouldn't have been able to express himself as a person or as a footballer… what he really feels.

I really congratulate him on his decision to choose to go to Inter Miami. His reasons were also for football, given that the next World Cup is in three years' time and the league in the United States has a three-month break, which gives him the opportunity to maintain fitness and play for any team in Europe to keep in shape for the following World Cup.

Messi has chosen well… despite their lowly position in the league, as they do not have relegation in the MLS! He's going to feel even more at home in the United States too, as there are about 40 Argentines playing Major League Soccer at the moment.

For sure, there are people who are disappointed in Spain that Messi is not returning to play in LaLiga. I think he feels defeated by the president, Joan Laporta and the directors…. not the club and not the fans. The club gave Messi everything in its day but the people currently running Barcelona at the moment do not feel the same as 'la gente' (the people) that support the club. 

Those that run the club are looking more at the money situation than at Messi, a player who gave everything to the club and has been the best player in the history of the club. Now, all of that prestige now takes second place and Messi was not going to allow Laporta to trample all over him again. 

Barcelona have lacked respect, making promises to him that they are not going to keep. They cannot spend the money that they have promised him, it's just not possible. You have to respect the Financial 'Fair Play' rules and Barcelona seem to be all about "inventing" ways around the rules.

Barcelona still not close to Man City

It's a difficult situation for Barcelona now because I don't know the margins they have in terms of spending despite the fact that they have won La Liga this season and are in the Champions League again.

Their problem is that they are letting go of great players like Sergio Busquets... who is irreplaceable. You could travel the globe searching for a new 'Busquets' but you won't find one. Also, players like Jordi Alba are leaving; Messi has gone for good, Gerard Pique has left too. It's going to be hard for Barca to replace those quality players.

However, it is true that Barcelona have some spectacular young players like Gavi and Pedri, who are both Spanish internationals, and they have the great left-back Alejandro Balde too…who is only 19 years old. They are all young players who can give a lot to the team in the coming years.

That said, I don't think Barcelona can get close to Manchester City in the Champions League. In this day and age, City are the best team in the world. However, in the future, it is possible and plausible that they might, in theory, have a bad day against a big team with Champions League pedigree like Real Madrid in a theoretical big match in the future.

That said, these days, City know how to defend, and defending was an area they were criticized for in the past… with the accusation being that they know how to score lots of goals but they don't know how to defend. Man City have learnt from their past mistakes. At this moment in time I believe that, on the ladder, they are currently two rungs above any other football team in the world.

We should not be celebrating Valencia avoiding relegation

In truth, we should not be celebrating the fact that Valencia have avoided relegation this season. They merit respect given that they're a historic club with 104 years of great footballing history, and do not deserve to be suffering, football-wise, what they have been going through recently.

I'm well aware that the squad was not planned out properly last summer, in pre-season. They brought in players on loan or on free transfers or players that could not find another team. The project is a bad one, and a project that starts badly will end badly too - we had to wait until the final minute of the final match of the season to see them secure safety in La Liga!

However, I love Valencia with all of my heart and I'm really grateful and happy that the manager Ruben Baraja had faith in a few young lads from the second team. I'm talking about young players like Javi Guerra and Diego Lopez- these lads scored important goals, gave the fans joy in the stands and provided more speed on the pitch too. Thanks to these 'chicos', Valencia did not get relegated.

Peter Lim has been in charge of Valencia since 2015 and every year is running the team more and more into the ground. If I run a business I want it to improve, year to year, not for it to get worse as time goes by. The politics of the club and the mentality of the owner must change if things are going to move forward. Back in the day, Valencia were Spain's third biggest club after Real Madrid and Barcelona; I would say, these days, that they're the eighth or ninth, and they just finished 16th!

For next season, the project has to be a serious one… where the owner will keep his word and commitment to the team and manager; regarding promises being made for the future. That way, we will see a good team start to evolve. However, if the manager gets sacked three months into the campaign and they sign players on loan again or players who cannot find another club to play for… Valencia will be going around in circles again and will get nowhere in La Liga.

Baraja has made good on his promise to keep Valencia in La Liga - that was what he committed to when he signed his short contract. I remember his first press conference where he said that any former player of Valencia would dream of managing the club one day. He said that he would be open to staying on if Valencia and avoided relegation under his management but would leave if he failed to keep them up.

Baraja has achieved what he set out to do and I believe that he has now renewed his contract until 2025. He's a person and manager who is loved in the city of Valencia, he has plenty of personality and knows the club well.

Benzema has gone to Saudi Arabia for the money

Karim Benzema is doing it for the money… for economic stability for the future and to enjoy his football too. It pains me that he has left. Real Madrid are going to miss him.

It has to be said that Benzema showed his worth as a striker since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club in 2018. When Ronaldo was in the team, Benzema mostly served the Portuguese man; once Ronaldo left, the Frenchman really grew as a striker and won everything for the club. It's going to be really, really difficult to replace him. I was a striker myself so I really enjoyed seeing the ball at Benzema's feet... even more than Messi!

However, I'm not so worried about the Saudi Arabians taking away the famous and really established players like Benzema… I'm more worried about them poaching the younger players with lots of promise. In ten years' time, we're all going to be crying because we won't be able to compete with the Saudis regarding the money being offered and, also, where will our great young players be?

An example would be Javi Guerra at Valencia. He is just 20 years old and has played about five games for the first team and the club are already putting a high price tag on him, way above his real value. What then happens is that 'Don Dinero' (the big money) comes along and young pearls could be plucked from LaLiga by the Saudis… This could happen to players like Ansu Fati, Gavi and Pedri at Barcelona, for example.

European clubs are going to have watch out now when they are going through difficult economic times. As a metaphor, if they miss the bus, the Saudis will be there for the ride and will take the players that they want. It will be like "picking fruit" with the sheer economic power that they possess. That said, if players go to play in Saudi Arabia they could most probably lose their place as internationals, as European managers of national sides will not be following the Saudi league like they follow the European leagues.

I really like the style of Gabri Veiga

When Gabri Veiga arrived on the scene as a central midfielder for Celta Vigo, we were talking about a young, spectacular and daring player! We're talking about players who enjoy their football and want to have fun on the pitch! They are the best sort of footballers!

Also, Celta has always been a team that has tried to play good football. They were moving towards Europa League places in La Liga and then Iago Aspas got injured and the team started to evaporate. I'm not really sure what happened but they ended up having to fight against being relegated… similar to Valencia's problems in the league.

Veiga started to disappear on the pitch. He's a great player that adds freshness to the team but you cannot give him the responsibility to lead the team, he is not that kind of player… he does not have those leadership qualities. Veiga is lacking the experience and toughness of leaders at Celta like Aspas.

I think Veiga could adapt well to English football. Why? Because he is a distinctive player, he knows how to anticipate the state of play or a particular key moment in a match… to get to difficult crosses and passes and be in the right position at the right time to receive the ball. He has a quick mind, he's fast and he has "gol" (an eye for goal) which is fundamental in football.

I believe that he is going to stay for another year at Celta…given that Celta ended badly in La Liga this season and Veiga will want to prove himself there next season at least.

What I'm hearing about Iniesta and Argentinos Juniors

The idea came from Gabriel Milito, the manager of Argentinos Juniors. Milito played at Barcelona with Andres Iniesta and they remain great friends. He will have told Iniesta that the Argentine league is a competitive one but he won't have told Iniesta that Argentina is a chaotic country with economic insecurity and very high inflation.

It's not Japan! Football is everything in Argentina. It's really a passion there! However, for the problems I have explained…I just don't see Iniesta playing in Argentina as viable.

I support Retegui's choice to commit to Italy

Mateo Retegui has made the right decision. What a strange surname he has! And he is a great striker too!

He has made waves in Argentine football as he started out at Boca Juniors and was then at Estudiantes de La Plata and then Tigre, which are really just a mid-table team in Argentina. However, he scored almost 30 goals there which is a very noticeable amount!

It's clear that the Italy manager Roberto Mancini has been checking out Retegui's progress again and again… knowing that the player has an Italian passport too. I believe that Mateo's father is Italian and his mother is Argentine.

Now that Retegui has played for Italy, he will not be able to play for Argentina. I believe that Italy have poached a great Argentine forward. He is a great striker in the goal box with both feet… and he pounces on mistakes and opportunities when they're presented to him.

I wish him the very best. Retegui is a spectacular player and an interesting one too. He deserves to play for a big club soon…

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