Manchester City believe they can prise Lionel Messi away from Barcelona in the summer, according to an exclusive report from Eurosport Spain, with news of Pep Guardiola's new two-year contract a crucial factor.
City emerged as the frontrunners to sign Messi over the summer after the Argentine said he wanted to leave Barcelona in the wake of their humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich and public fallout with president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
However, Messi would eventually stay after Barcelona insisted that a €700 million release clause was still valid.
"I wasn't happy and I wanted to leave," Messi told Goal.com.
I have not been allowed this in any way and I will stay at the club so as not to get into a legal dispute. The management of the club led by Bartomeu is a disaster
However, City executives Ferrán Soriano and Txiki Begiristáin, both formerly of Barcelona, are now putting together a package to tempt the six-time Ballon d’Or winner to move to the Etihad Stadium. Here is how they expect to do it.
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GUARDIOLA’S NEW CONTRACT
City made it very clear that they intended to extend the contract of Pep Guardiola, and having the former Barcelona coach at the helm will prove crucial to convincing Messi to join the Etihad club. In his report for Eurosport Spain, Fermín de la Calle revealed that Guardiola had in recent weeks given the club positive indications that he would like to extend his tenure beyond the summer, and the first part of the puzzle is now in place with Guardiola officially committing to a new contract.
TIE AGUERO DOWN TO A NEW DEAL
City are aware that a move to England would represent a seismic change for the 33-year-old forward, and, as such, will attempt to make that transition as smooth as possible. Thus another contract renewal – that of international team-mate and close friend Sergio Aguero – has taken on renewed importance. The belief being that Aguero can help Messi settle into new surroundings, and the City hierarchy now feel the presence of Aguero at the club could prove crucial to persuading Messi to make the switch.
However, the report adds that renewing Aguero and signing Messi could force the club to sell one of its other leading stars to balance the books.
CAPITALISING ON BARCELONA TURMOIL
Barcelona remain in turmoil despite the resignation of Bartomeu. Elections to select a new president will not take place until January 24, with Messi already able to sign a pre-contract agreement elsewhere in Europe from January 1.
Further, the report adds, Messi remains unsettled at the club following a summer of hostility and that has begun to have an impact on his family life. The Argentine touched on the subject during the recent international break, telling reporters that "I'm tired of always being the problem at Barcelona,” and Eurosport Spain add that the tension within the club is deepening.
City, therefore, believe that they can put in place an environment that will persuade Messi that his future lies away from Camp Nou.
Messi says he's 'tired of always being the problem' at Barcelona
In Inside Football on Friday, Dean Jones reported that addressing a possible transfer for Messi would be a key focus for City as they entered a crucial six months.
The overriding issue was the future of Guardiola, and with that having now been secured, it allows City the confidence to pursue Messi, but also go about the rest of their transfer planning...
TARGETS: LUIZ, LAUTARO AND... HAALAND?
Sources are indicating that City will look for another centre-back, despite the additions of Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias in the last window. It’s possible they look at the situation in January but more likely they wait until summer unless a new injury or problem arises.
They are continuing to monitor the central midfield position, with eyes on Douglas Luiz’s impressive displays at Aston Villa and the possibility of bringing him back to the club.
Attack is the most exciting place they will aim to make an addition next summer. Sergio Aguero’s contract is up at the end of this season and while the prospect of an extension is certainly possible, recruitment staff are having to clearly define candidates to replace the club’s record goalscorer long-term.
Of course, there is always that Messi dream to consider - he could even work well in the same side as Aguero - but other stellar talent is being identified in the meantime. Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, also from Argentina, is one figure they feel could fit well as the next focal point of the side. Borussia Dortmund’s brilliant Erling Haaland is also a genuine target. He’s viewed as the all-action front man who will ensure the goals do not dry up in the coming years. Fresh enquiries can be expected at the start of the year.