Could this be the only thing keeping Chelsea & Messi apart?

Former Barcelona and Chelsea coach Henk Ten Cate believes the only reason Lionel Messi may not join the Blues is a promise he made to former manager Tito Vilanova on his deathbed.

The former Nou Camp manager passed away last year after losing a long battle with cancer, which saw him forced to step out of the dugout in July 2013.

Messi is known to have had a close relationship with Vilanova, who had been working as a member of Pep Guardiola’s backroom staff before becoming Barca’s top coach.

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Reports in recent days have claimed that the Argentine superstar is considering calling time on his career with the La Liga giants, with a difficult season under Luis Enrique having strained relationships at the club.

And Ten Cate feels that Messi would be ready to leave, or have left already, had it not been for a vow he made to Vilanova:

“As far as I know, these problems all started about two years ago. Messi is only still at Barcelona because he promised it to Tito Vilanova at his deathbed. But I think a transfer would be in everybody’s best interest.” He told De Telegraaf.

“Lionel has been at Barcelona for quite a while and he needs a new challenge. He’s still worth a lot of money now, but his value will only go down from here on.

“I really want to be supportive, because he has been on another level for 10 years. But I’m not sure he will get back to his best.

“It isn’t normal to shine for 10 years like he has done. Most of the big names can only keep it up for seven or eight years. And to be honest, he wasn’t at his best either last season, even if his statistics were still great.”