The blue half of Manchester has a strong Barcelona presence already but superstar Lionel Messi could be set to take it to another level?
On Tuesday, Messi dropped his bombshell on Barca, via fax, of his desire to leave during this current transfer window.
And the notion of a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City isn’t too far-fetched with bookies making them the clear favourites to snap him up.
Manchester City could be the next destination for Lionel Messi if he leave Barcelona
Messi’s time at Barcelona is coming to an end after he told them by fax that he wants out
He could be playing in the Premier League as City try to win back their crown from Liverpool
If he did move to the Etihad Stadium it would see him reunited with manager Pep Guardiola
As arguably the greatest player ever, Messi would have plenty of suitors should he quit the Nou Camp. As well as City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Juventus are also showing early interest.
But Manchester City have always felt they’d be in pole position to land the 33-year-old for a number of reasons.
Firstly, in their dugout is manager Guardiola. The Spaniard’s relationship with Messi is excellent and the two enjoyed a spell-binding four years at Barcelona where they won 11 major honours – including three LaLiga titles and two Champions Leagues.
And it was Guardiola who Messi reached out to after Barca’s 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League earlier this month over the feasibility of a move to the Etihad, much to the delight of the City manager.
Also, City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, joined from Barcelona and the Spaniard has a prior relationship with Messi that could work in City’s favour. City’s CEO Ferran Soriano has also worked with Messi before as he was Barcelona’s vice-chairman and CEO between 2003 and 2008.
ESPN report that a move by City could pave the way for him to see his career out in America via their MLS partner club New York City. It is also reported that a three-year deal is on the table at the Etihad before a move across the Atlantic. There would also be scope for him to be offered a role as ambassador for the City Football Group too.
For now, City have refused to comment on all speculation surrounding the Argentine.
Messi and Guardiola (pictured in 2011) won 11 trophies in four years together at Barcelona
However, speaking in February Guardiola went on record and said he hoped that Messi finished his career at Barcelona.
‘He’s a player for Barcelona, he will stay there, that is my wish,’ he said when asked if he would ever consider bringing him to the Premier League.
‘I’m not going to talk about players for another club. I think he’s going to finish his career there, it’s my wish.’
A second key factor to consider in a Messi to City deal is Sergio Aguero. Aguero and Messi are very close having played up front for years together for Argentina. They have a good relationship off-the-pitch too and were in Barcelona at the same time over the past two months.
Financially too, City have the clout to afford Messi and his wages – which are £95million per year. Messi’s fixed salary at Barcelona totals £64m (€71m) but bonuses for signing, for staying, and for winning trophies takes the figure well above that.
Just by playing 60 per cent of games until the 2021 date when his contract ends would see Messi earn on average £95m (€106m) a season. But the potential – if he were to win the Treble and win FIFA’s player of the year award – exists to push the final figure over the £110m (€122m) mark.
Messi has a great relationship with Argentina team-mate Sergio Aguero (left) who is also at City and plays under Guardiola – heightening the appeal of any potential switch to England
However, if these figures were matched by City then the club would face their own challenges. First of all they would obliterate their own wage structure.
The knock-on effect could then agitate other stars within the team who seek greater parity. This could be particularly pertinent to Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling who are both yet to sign contract extensions. De Bruyne has three years remaining on his current deal worth a guaranteed £280,000 a week. Sterling also has three years left on his deal which, as revealed by Sportsmail in 2018, is worth up to £300,000 a week with bonuses.
As detailed by Sportsmail; if City signed him this summer, they would risk being hit with sanctions and a possible £629m (€700m) bill if FIFA ended up ruling in Barcelona’s favour.
Messi believes he is a free agent. Barcelona say he is tied to the club for another year and with a £629m release clause.
If City believe Messi is right they could get a provisional international transfer certificate (ITC) from FIFA and register him to play this coming season.
Messi’s wages would destroy the club’s wage structure with the Premier League outfit yet to agree new deals for integral duo Kevin De Bruyne (left) and Raheem Sterling
FIFA would then rule on the dispute between Barcelona and Manchester City in the early part of next year.
If they then decided that Messi was right about being a free agent then City would be in the clear. But if FIFA ruled that Barcelona were right then City could be liable for Messi’s massive release clause and face possible sanctions.
The last contract Messi signed in 2017 allowed him to leave on a free at the end of every season if he provided notice of his intention in the first 10 days of June.
When there was no news from Messi during the first 10 days of June this year the club took it that the deadline had passed and he was now tied to another year.
But Messi has a different interpretation. If his contract allows him to leave on a free at the end of every campaign, and the season disrupted by coronavirus did not end until August, then he believes he can go for nothing now, providing he informs the club – which he did do by sending the burofax on Tuesday.
This looks like a transfer saga only just beginning but the foundations have been in place for some time.
The world will know more when Messi speaks and he is expected to in the coming days. But for now, he is reported to be ignoring calls from Josep Bartomeu, who is desperate for peace talks. The Barcelona president appears to be losing this war though – and that points to City being the big winners.