Richard Buxton: This Bridge might not be too far for Lionel Messi
With Abramovich on another shopping spree, Chelsea can't be ruled out should Barca's talisman decide to leave Nou Camp
Lionel Messi and Chelsea are oil and water; they co-exist on different levels.
Vast wealth has delivered untold riches for the west Londoners under Roman Abramovich's premiership except, crucially, the one thing that money alone cannot buy.
Messi is universally adored and respected in ways that the Blues can only dream about.
Ordinarily such polar opposites would never attract, yet the Barcelona captain's growing state of unrest has opened up a rare window of opportunity for Frank Lampard's side.
The humiliating Champions League exit to Bayern Munich proved to be the straw which finally snapped Messi's patience with the Nou Camp's perennially hapless hierarchy.
His willingness to leave the club which once nurtured his talent and now shamelessly takes it for granted is a step beyond past flirtations.
Sacking both coach Quique Setien and director of football Eric Abidal, a former teammate, did little to placate him.
Appointing a bona fide Johan Cruyff disciple in Ronald Koeman as Setien's replacement, similarly, is yet to provide Messi with legitimate reasons to stick around in Catalonia.
The Argentine's evident disillusion is aligned to the failings of Josep Maria Bartomeu's administration and the president's refusal to stand down before next March's elections.
Barca's boardroom is split on whether to listen to offers for their wantaway talisman.
A 700 million euro (S$1.13b) release clause is prohibitive, but selling at a reduced fee is, for some, still preferable to seeing him leave for nothing in less than 12 months.
Only a select handful of teams could realistically afford both the 33-year-old's lofty price tag and salary demands.
Those suitors are now in short supply as elite-level football collectively tightens its belt to limit the financial impact caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Stamford Bridge is proving to be one of the few exceptions to this particular rule.
Lampard's rebuilding task continues apace with Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva all expected to join before the English Premier League restarts on Sept 12.
Money and age are seemingly no barrier to Chelsea with Leicester City expected to command more than £50m to part with Chilwell, while Silva's advancing seniority, at 35, still helped Paris Saint-Germain reach the Champions League final this morning (Singapore time).
Last season's FA Cup finalists appear determined to mount a sustained assault for the EPL title with an increasing number of astute additions at both ends of the field.
Signing the world's greatest footballer, however, would amplify their statement of intent tenfold.
In a team of talents, Messi's role at the Bridge would be less pressured than the all-encompassing and unhealthy burden of expectancy which Barcelona place upon him.
A chance to test himself on Cristiano Ronaldo's former EPL stomping ground also further enhances his legacy as one of the greatest-ever players to grace the global game.
Ronaldo himself is proof why Chelsea breaking the bank makes sense on multiple fronts.
In just 24 hours, Messi's arch-rival had swelled Juventus' social media following by 2.2m while simultaneously wiping half that figure off Real Madrid's digital footprint.
Selling shirts and driving online engagement are obvious off-field benefits of the Ballon d'Or holder's presence.
For Lampard's well-heeled charges, he can be the difference between a genuine shot at dominating English and continental football next term.
If Messi is serious about leaving and the price is right, Chelsea are an unlikely perfect fit.