Manchester City are ‘increasingly optimistic’ over their chances of signing Lionel Messi from Barcelona, despite La Liga’s insistence that the player’s €700m release clause remains valid.
Messi has informed Barcelona of his desire to quit the club this summer and has effectively gone on ‘strike’ to force a move from the Camp Nou, refusing to attend the club’s training ground for coronavirus tests ahead of a return to pre-season training.
The relationship between Barcelona and the club’s greatest ever player seems to be heading towards a bitter end, the Argentine becoming embroiled in a legal dispute with the Spanish giants over a clause in his contract that would allow the 33-year-old to depart on a free transfer this summer.
It remains to be seen whether that clause can be invoked by Messi with Barcelona claiming the deadline for the forward to walk away has since passed, whilst La Liga’s authorities have insisted the player’s €700m release clause remains valid despite claims to the contrary.
According to the Times, Manchester City are increasingly confident of their ability to secure the six-time Ballon d’Or winner in a blockbuster deal despite the complicated situation, with Messi having reportedly informed Pep Guardiola of his desire to reunite with the former Barcelona boss in the Premier League.
Messi would expect to remain the highest-paid footballer in the world should he move to the Etihad, with Spanish football expert, Terry Gibson, believing Barcelona may now be open to the player’s departure and removing Messi’s record-breaking salary from their wage bill ahead of a huge rebuild in Catalonia.
“It’s a sign now that there is going to be a war between Barcelona and Messi,” Gibson told the Sky Sports Transfer Talk Podcast on Sunday.
“If you’re asking me what is going to happen eventually, I think Manchester City are the favourites now. But part of me thinks (Josep) Bartomeu and Ronald Koeman want to see Messi out of the door now.
“They want to eradicate his wage bill, Luis Suarez’s wage bill, the team needs rebuilding, but I think Manchester City will have to pay a fee which isn’t €600m or €700m, it’s going to be €100m at the very least, even for a 33-year-old.
“If Barcelona can get the transfer fee from Manchester City, get Messi off the wage bill and try to pin the blame on Messi, that’s the outcome which suits Bartomeu, Ronald Koeman, and the outcome that will suit Manchester City.
“I find it hard to see an outcome where Messi, who’s missed the medical preparation and can’t train, has a way back, eats humble pie and stays at Barcelona.”