Lionel Messi the answer to Manchester City’s problems: Richard Buxton
EPL side should pull out all the stops to reunite the Argentinian with Guardiola
Pep Guardiola already knows where the answer to Manchester City's problems lies.
With his side sitting outside the English Premier League's top half after another 2-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur yesterday morning (Singapore time), the Catalan's need to formulate a clear plan of action has become even more imperative.
Sequels seldom live up to the billing of their original hits and Guardiola must execute the mother of all follow-ups after reaffirming his commitment to the Etihad Stadium.
City's demise from a box-office attraction to an arthouse flop in just 12 months means that the two-time Champions League-winning manager must now deliver a blockbuster effort.
Reinvention, however, has hardly been Guardiola's forte in elite-level management. He builds teams whose legacy is often too great for their successors to emulate or overcome.
He ran out of steam during a final year at Barcelona, having conquered domestic and European football with the "tiki taka" principles handed down by the late Johan Cruyff.
In east Manchester, the challenge threatens to prove more difficult after clinching back- to-back league titles with a combined 198-point haul across those successive seasons.
But the solution is currently staring Guardiola in the face; helplessly peering out from numerous television screens, newspaper back pages and other forms of mass media.
Mere hours after the Citizens had toiled at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, it did so again as Lionel Messi cut a forlorn figure in Barca's 1-0 reversal to Atletico Madrid.
The Argentinian continues to act as a lightning rod in the Nou Camp's never-ending civil war. Presidential candidates court his affections while critics cite him as the root of all ills.
Withstanding such pressures while playing in a team of limited capabilities has shorn Messi of his greatest qualities. Often, his trademark free-kicks fail to reach their intended target with just one of his previous 48 attempts successfully finding the net.
Guardiola exercised diplomacy in hoping the reigning Ballon d'Or holder will see out his career with Barca, where he has flourished into one of the finest talents of all time.
Yet a potential reunion between the pair at City makes increasing common sense for all concerned. The inner workings of life at the Etihad have long been a source of intrigue for Messi, even before they appointed his former mentor more than four years ago.
If Guardiola's second act in English football is to prove successful, the 33-year-old's role will be pivotal. Whether in January or next summer, his arrival can act as a genuine catalyst in a team which will be able to both learn from and showcase his key attributes.
Coming unstuck against Jose Mourinho's stubborn tactics would become a thing of the past, particularly with Messi's knack for unlocking defences as routinely as Tottenham were allowed to bypass City's £119.2 million (S$212.9m) centre-back pairing yesterday.
Guardiola may still need to perform a slight volte-face, having derided the Lilywhites as "the Harry Kane team", such is his influence for the EPL's recent table toppers.
City's synonymy as the "Messi team", no matter how brief, would not be a retrograde step.
Even at 33, he is still capable of conjuring up brilliance from practically nothing.
And Guardiola will be hoping that he takes that magic to Manchester.