Cristiano Ronaldo challenged Lionel Messi to join him at Serie A, but the FC Barcelona star rebuffed the idea. He told the press that each year brought him fresh challenges at the Camp Nou and he was not thinking about leaving for Italy.
The idea is cool, if impractical, and it has led to interesting Photoshop jobs:
December 12, 2018
And, we can still have fun in the magical world of FIFA 19!
That’s why I’ve decided to sim one season of Serie A with Messi in each of the top 5 clubs that are not Juventus, the home of Ronaldo. Why not Juve? Well, because both Ronaldo and Messi joining a team that has won Serie A 7 times in a row seems boring, not to mention, somewhat ridiculous.
The rules were simple, I transferred Messi at the beginning of the season, picked him in the squad, and then simmed the whole season - no other changes.
So, let’s get to it!
Messi at Napoli
The situation: Napoli are second in Serie A in real life, albeit behind by 9 points. Still, Messi slotted into Napoli’s default 4-3-3 instead of José Callejón at right wing. Messi follows the footsteps of the legendary Diego Maradona, who helped Napoli win their first scudetto.
End of 2019: I want to give an update on what’s happening in this simmed season at the same point we are in real life right now. Napoli were second in Serie A with 44 points, although only behind Inter Milan on goal difference. Juventus surprisingly were 4th with 39 points, but Ronaldo was doing his bit. He led the league in goals with 14, though Messi was second with 10 and the Argentine led Serie A with 6 assists. Gli Azzurri also topped their UEFA Champions League group.
End of the season: In the Champions League, Napoli were eliminated by Tottenham Hotspur 6-3 on aggregate. That’s also the stage that the Messi-less Barcelona went out on away goals to Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus went out 4-1 on aggregate to Real Madrid. A good showing for Napoli nonetheless. They also reached the final of the Coppa Italia, which they lost 2-1 to Juve. However, in the league front, Napoli won 6 of their last 7 matches, drawing the other against Inter 1-1 with a late Messi equalizer. That point kept Napoli one point ahead of Juve in the table. And with a 2-1 win over Bologna, Napoli won Serie A! For whatever reason, Messi scored much less in the second half of the season, as Lorenzo Insigne overtook him with 17 goals to Messi’s 12. Ronaldo ran away with the league scoring title (22), but Messi finished with the most assists (9). Real Madrid topped La Liga, amassing a crazy 103 points. Barcelona were a distant second with 87. Surprisingly, Atlético Madrid won the UEFA Champions League final, 2-1, over Real Madrid.
1. Napoli/Messi 83 points
2. Juventus 82 points
3. Inter 79 points
4. Lazio 76 points
5, Milan 69 points
Conclusion: Messi didn’t score as many, but he seemed to be a facilitator for Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens from the right wing. The team scored 74 goals in Serie A and conceded 28. Juventus was almost the same, except they scored one more goal. Napoli were in that way somewhat lucky, especially as Juventus dropped off from last season. Still, Messi won Serie A and Ronaldo would regret issuing the challenge he did. And Diego Maradona gets eve-more jealous as Messi repeats one of his most famous feats.
Messi at Inter Milan
The situation: Messi joins Mauro Icardi and Lautaro Martínez at a team that has previously held such Argentine luminaries as Javier Zanetti, Walter Samuel, Hernán Crespo, Juan Sebastián Verón, Diego Simeone and Esteban Cambiasso. In real life, Inter are third, 14 points behind Juve. Casting aside their default 4-2-3-1 formation, I decided to switch to 4-4-1-1 to put Messi as a supporting striker behind Icardi. I put Radja Nainggolan as a CM and dropped Matteo Politano to the bench.
End of 2019: Inter started the season strongly and was leading the league by six points in the early stages, until Juventus defeated them 2-1 with a late goal by Mehdi Benatia to cut that lead into just three. Napoli were also a threat, but Inter dispatched them 3-0 late in the year. Right before the winter break, Inter were first with 43 points, followed by Juventus with 40 and Napoli 39. Inter qualified as second in the group in the Champions League. Ronaldo was first in the Serie A scoring charts with 18, followed by Icardi with 15. Messi was nowhere to be seen, strangely enough, in the top scorer chart, as he only had 4 goals. On the other hand. he did have 7 assists, second in Serie A after Paulo Dybala’s 9. When it came to player ratings, Messi was second for Inter with a 7.4 average after Icardi’s 7.6.
End of the season: Messi had a homecoming in the Champions League quarterfinals as Inter drew Barcelona, but this proved problematic for the Italians as Barcelona won 1-0 at the San Siro with a Philippe Coutinho goal. In the return leg, Barça were tested as Inter could have knocked them out on away goals, but the match ended 2-2 with Messi claiming a 75th minute equalizer, his only goal against Barcelona in his career. Inter won an important match at home to Juve 2-1, with Ronaldo scoring an equalizer before half time to make it 1-1 via penalty, before Messi scoring the winner in the 48th. After that, Inter never looked back and went from strength to strength, winning the scudetto 3 matches early as Juve stumbled in a 1-0 loss to Roma and Inter won 3-1 against Cagliari to put the Nerazzurri 8 points clear. Inter faced Milan in the Coppa italia final, where once again the Talismanic Messi opened the scoring. He was eventually subbed off for Martínez as Inter trailed 1-2 after a goal from Gonzalo Higuaín. The computer loved subbing Messi off, which was odd, but it was effective this time as Martínez put the sides level. Inter lost after Suso scored in extra time to make it 3-2, though. Inter finished the season with 92 points, ahead of Juve on 87 and Napoli on 84. Ronaldo finished with 31 goals, followed by Icardi on 22, and Messi only had 13. In assists, Dybala led the way with 13, with Messi in third with 10. Meanwhile in La Liga, Real Madrid won the title despite being tied on points with Atlético Madrid, both with 84. Barcelona were a distant third with 75. In the Champions League, Bayern won the final 2-1 over Real Madrid.
1. Inter/Messi 92 points
2. Juventus 89 points
3. Napoli 84 points
4. Torino 77 points
5, Milan 71 points
Conclusion: Something I’ve noticed is FIFA severely underrates Messi’s scoring ability (or maybe I’m just not giving him the correct role.) However, the forwards he partners up with tended to have monster seasons, whether it was Insigne for Napoli or Icardi here. The computer tended to sub him off often, which I think could have been maybe because it thought the role I gave him was weird or because perhaps it underrates his stamina. This was a pleasing season as Messi won Serie A, and it was done in more convincing fashion. Also, one imagines his partnerships with Icardi and Martínez would be a blessing for Argentina ahead of next year’s Copa América.
Messi at Lazio
The situation: In real life, Lazio are fourth, 21 points behind Juventus. His compatriot Joaquín Correa plays there, and formerly so did Hernán Crespo, Juan Sebastián Verón, Diego Simeone, Juan Pablo Sorín and Claudio López. Lazio’s default formation is 3-5-1-1, so I decided to roll with it and substitute Messi directly for Luis Alberto behind Ciro Immobile.
End of 2019: Lazio are doing OK, relatively speaking. Juventus lead the way in Serie A with 44 points, followed by Inter with 41. Surprisingly, Torino are third, with 38, while Lazio are just a point behind in fourth. Ronaldo is first in goals with 16, but Messi is in third with 11 goals. Messi also leads the league in assists with 5. In the Europa League, Lazio topped their group.
End of the season: In the Europa League, Lazio eventually eased past Villarreal 5-3 on aggregate in the quarterfinals, only to be bounced out by domestic rivals Inter in the semifinals. Lazio got a good result at the San Siro with a goal from Messi and a late equalizer from Immobile canceling out two Icardi goals to make it 2-2, but they faltered in the home leg and lost 1-2 with a late Nainggolan goal. In the league, it was a two-horse race between Inter and Juve and Lazio were resigned to competing with Milan, Napoli, and Torino to stay in the Champions League places. They went into the last match barely holding onto fourth place, one point ahead of Napoli, with Milan in third. Inter won the title after a surprising slip from Juventus in their last game of the season, while Lazio dropped to 5th place after drawing theirs.Ronaldo topped the scoring charts with 30 goals, and Messi kept up his third place with 18. Icardi was the top assist giver with 13, while Messi finished with a rather disappointing 6.
- Inter 87 points
- Juventus 83 points
- Milan 76 points
- Napoli 71 points
- Lazio/Messi 70 points.
Conclusion: Despite some early promise, this one was disappointing. Lazio actually finished the league worse off than they are in real life, going from fourth to fifth. The team had signs of competing for the Europa League but a strong Inter ended up winning both the Europa League (3-1 over Arsenal in the final) and Serie A. It’s strange to imagine both Messi and Ronaldo falling short of the title. A Messi-less Barcelona ended up winning the Champions League over Atlético Madrid, although the Catalans finished third in La Liga with Real Madrid winning it with 86 points. This would be a really, really weird season.
Messi at AC Milan
The situation: Milan are 22 points behind Juventus in real life, and this team is far from the vintage Milan teams. Still, there’s some potential there and Messi will once again be inserted on the right wing in a 4-3-3, with his longtime international teammate Higuaín in the center and Suso dropping to the bench. Another old Argentina teammate is here too, Lucas Biglia, with Mateo Musacchio rounding out the albiceleste contingent. This is a team that doesn’t have as strong of an Argentine connection, with Fernando Redondo perhaps the player from yesteryear who most sticks in the memory. José Antonio Chamot, Fabricio Coloccini, Roberto Ayala, and yes, Crespo did once play for Milan. Can Messi bring them back to their peak?
End of 2019: Milan started the season with a 3-1 loss to Juventus in the Italian Supercup, which in real life is being played in January for some reason. Messi did mark his debut with a goal, so was this a sign of things to come? So far, yes, as Milan finished the year top of the league, on 48 points, with Inter on 45 and Juve on 44. This even despite losing a rematch against Juventus 2-1. So, you might think based on this that Messi and Higuaín are tearing up the league, right? Get this - Higuaín has ONE goal and ZERO assists, and Messi has four goals and three assists. Diego Laxalt of all people has eight goals. Absolute lunacy. In the Europa League, Milan are playing very well, having won all six of their matches and having (naturally) topped the group. Weird.
End of the season: Higuaín has been out of form all season, so of course he scored a brace in the Europa League to help Milan beat Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford. The celebrations were short-lived, though, as United won the second leg 4-1. However, in the league, Milan kept plugging away and getting results. Messi scored a crucial brace against Inter as Milan drew 2-2. He also scored a brace as Milan drew against Juventus 2-2, though he did miss a penalty. And they were very good at putting away other teams, with a strange by-committee approach to scoring. Messi did end up being the team’s top scorer with 13 goals, but Laxalt for some reason was just one goal behind. Messi also picked up five assists, a good effort, sure, but not as good as the mighty Laxalt, who finished with 8. Laxalt finished as the team’s top rated player (of course) with 7.3, but Messi was second with 7.2. Ronaldo finished as Serie A top scorer with 30, which seems inevitable, but interestingly Dybala was second with 23. Ronaldo also led the league in assists with 14. In the end, Milan won the league with three matches to spare. Despite Milan winning the league, their goal difference was 45, while Juve’s was +55. Just shows you how you have to have the right performances at the right time. Juventus though, had the last laugh, as they won the Champions League final with a 2-0 win over Bayern. Real Madrid won La Liga, with Barcelona 12 points back in third.
- Milan/Messi 92 points
- Inter 86 points
- Juventus 84 points
- Napoli 70 points
- Torino 69 points
Conclusion: This is a weird one. It’s so weird I almost want to re-do it. I mean, at the midway point of the season Biglia had more goals than Messi. Anyway, Messi inspired Milan, a team nowhere near the league title in real life, to a huge romp through Serie A. I mean 92 points. That’s nuts. We are talking about one of the highest points totals in Italian football history. On the other hand, Juventus and particularly Ronaldo were brilliant, and despite being third, won the Champions League. I can just imagine the various arguments this chain of events would spark. Who would win the Ballon d’Or though: Messi, Ronaldo, or Diego Laxalt?
FIFA is weird. Like, really weird.
For whatever reason, Messi could never get close to matching Ronaldo’s output. Is the game biased for its cover model? Who knows.
On the other hand, despite Messi himself not always scoring or even assisting to the crazy levels he does in real life, he seemed to inspire his team on a regular basis to do extremely well. I was very surprised that in three of the four scenarios, his team won the league. The one in which they didn’t was when he was at Lazio, where the team underperformed given the fact that the world’s best player joined them.
While this was fun, it probably wasn’t very realistic. I wonder whether Football Manager 19 would produce something more like what I would imagine would happen. Oh well, for next time!