Manchester City are exploring their financial options to assess whether they are in a position to try and sign Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi if he becomes available this summer.
Having first joined the club at 13, Messi has been increasingly linked with a Camp Nou exit this summer owing to frustrations about Barça’s growing failings, compounded by a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League earlier this month.
Speaking at the end of the 2019/20 La Liga season, Messi preached the need for ‘a lot’ of changes if the club was to be competitive in the European mini-tournament. Those changes, which may need to be far reaching, were not implemented in time to prevent embarrassment.
“There have been moments in the past when Messi's future at Barcelona has looked uncertain. But, make no mistake about it, he has never been closer to leaving than he is at the moment,” author and journalist Guillem Balague wrote in a recent BBC Sport column.
Ex-Inter chairman Massimo Moratti expects his former club to make a move for the Argentine, telling AS this week, “I imagine that Inter have already tried. And if not, I think they will soon.”
But Manchester City, who have long been linked with Messi as a result of the presence of Pep Guardiola, Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano at the Etihad Stadium, are also weighing up the situation with a view to making an approach for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
ESPN writes that City are currently ‘crunching the numbers’ to ascertain if they have the resources to make an offer for Messi, if he is genuinely available, and stay within Financial Fair Play regulations.
It is said that while any deal to sign Messi is expected to be enormously complicated, City ‘want to be prepared’ should it become a possibility if Barça are willing to accept a reasonable fee.
Messi did have a clause in his Barça contract that did allow him to leave as a free agent this summer should he wish to. However, that option expired at the start of June. His overall contract still has one more year until 2021, although it means he could move as a free agent next summer.
For now, Barcelona’s official stance will see them point any suitor to a €700m (£632m) buyout clause, but ESPN adds that certain board members at Camp Nou see selling Messi as a potential opportunity to raise funds that can be re-invested in an ailing squad.
Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu considers only eight players in the current squad to be ‘non-transferable’. But Messi is among them, alongside Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Frenkie de Jong, Nelson Semedo, Clement Lenglet and Ansu Fati.
Messi is rumoured to have told new Barça coach Ronald Koeman at a meeting last week that he is considering leaving and is ‘more outside than inside the club'. The player was later reported to be ‘furious’ that information from the meeting had been leaked to the media.
Aside from City and Inter, as Moratti expects, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are also thought to be monitoring Messi’s situation. PSG coach Thomas Tuchel has said that he would be welcome in the French capital, although he expects the player to still remain with Barcelona.