Manchester City have accepted they may only be able to sign Barcelona forward Lionel Messi on a free transfer, leading to manager Pep Guardiola urging Messi to stay at Camp Nou.
City have emerged as the leading candidate to sign Messi, who has asked to leave Barça and believes he has triggered a clause in his contract which now makes him a free agent – something Barcelona dispute.
La Liga took the side of Barça in this debate, insisting Messi’s contract is still valid and the only way he can force his way out of the club is if his £624m release clause is triggered, which obviously isn’t happening.
There were reports that City could launch a £250m players-plus-cash bid to try and get an agreement over the line, but according to Mundo Deportivo, the Citizens have accepted that paying any money for Messi would blow their budget apart.
When the Argentine’s wage demands are factored into the equation, City know that shelling out a hefty transfer fee would do more harm to their team than good – many high earners would likely have to be sold – so they are prepared to give up on signing Messi if he is not available for free.
Guardiola returned to Manchester on Monday after a brief spell in Barcelona, during which it is understood he spoke to Messi over the phone, but the boss confessed that the financial difficulties of signing Messi will likely make this one too difficult to pull off.
He told the Argentine that he would be better off rebuilding his relationship with Barça and ending his career at Camp Nou – something he has publicly stated plenty of times in the past.
Having said that, City will continue to monitor the situation closely.
Messi is expected to take Barcelona to court over his desire to terminate his contract, and if he ends up being successful, City are prepared to pounce.
Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked with a move for Messi, but it’s likely that they will take a similar stance to City.
Paying the world’s highest earner is hard enough (even for PSG), but factoring in a sizeable transfer fee in the aftermath of a global pandemic is simply not feasible.
Meanwhile, Messi may not have reported to Barcelona medicals and training sessions, there are indications that he is in Barcelona.
UK’s The Sun quoting numerous sources, has reported that the maverick striker was spotted in Barcelona for the first time since dropping the bombshell that he wanted to leave the Nou Camp.
He was captured leaving a restaurant with best pal Luis Suarez – whose future also remains up in the air.
Footage released by El Chiringuito TV, reveals Messi departing in a black vehicle while Suarez then follows separately.
Manchester City, United, Chelsea, PSG and Inter Milan have all been linked with the Argentine superstar.
But Suarez’s agent Alejandro Balbi, admitted the 33-year-old Uruguayan’s next step could be dependant on the outcome of Messi’s transfer saga.
Balbi told TyC Sports via Goal: “Messi’s future will have an influence because they are best friends.
“There is a lot of brotherly love between them; they are inseparable, always together.”
Messi’s anger at the Barca board started after new manager Ronald Koeman ordered the Suarez to leave in a one-minute phone call.