Pablo Zabaleta has suggested Manchester City would offer “perfect conditions” for Lionel Messi, should he elect to leave Barcelona in the summer, but Ronald Koeman has said the Argentina superstar is "excited and happy" in Catalunya.
Messi’s future at Camp Nou is shrouded in doubt, as he is in the final six months of his contract and has given no indication as to whether he will remain at the club or head for a new challenge.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner said last year that he would not make any decision on his future until the end of the current campaign.
Should he decide to move on, there would be no shortage of suitors - with Paris Saint-Germain reportedly ready to make a huge offer to secure the 33-year-old’s services.
However, Messi - who moved level with Xavi on 505 Liga appearances in Saturday’s win over Alaves - has an excellent relationship with City coach Pep Guardiola, and Zabaleta feels the Etihad would be the perfect place should he move on.
“If Lionel Messi decides to leave Barcelona and he wants to play in the best league then he has to experience the Premier League for himself," Zabaleta, who spent the bulk of his peak years at City, told the Mirror. “It is something that will interest him because every player I know always asks me what the Premier League is like.
“Leo has been in La Liga for so many years and I think it would be a huge attraction for him to experience English football.
“And Manchester City offer the perfect conditions.
He knows Pep very well, he knows [sporting director] Txiki Begiristain and [chief executive] Ferran Soriano and also [Sergio] Aguero. It would be a big decision if Leo leaves Barcelona. But if that’s what he wants then it would be a good thing for him to go to a club that has people already there who can help him to settle."
Messi scored twice in the 5-1 win over Alaves, and Koeman feels the forward is showing no signs of giving up on Barcelona.
"Leo is a decisive player," the Barca head coach said after the win over Alaves. "He has been for many years, he is very concentrated. He's excited and happy, and he's been very effective in front of goal."
Barca’s upturn in form continued and that could have a pivotal say on Messi's decision as he will want to see signs that the team can challenge for honours in the later years of his career.
Messi 'excited and happy' at Barcelona - Koeman
Koeman feels it is important the rest of the squad join Messi on the journey back to the top.
"If we want to try and go through or aspire to win trophies having Messi at his best is vital, but we need also everyone else at their best," Koeman said. "That's very important."