Messi wants to reunite with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City

The Argentinian ace will turn up for practice, but he is determined to leave FC Barcelona

Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi during a Champions League Manchester City - FC Barcelona match three years ago. / JASON CAIRNDUFF / REUTERS

The possibility of seeing Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi together in the same team is becoming increasingly likely. However, that wouldn’t be in Barcelona, but in Manchester. The English club appears to be in the best position to hire the Argentine star, provided Messi is able to leave Barça as he formally requested in writing last Tuesday. Barça chairman Josep Maria Bartomeu says he wants to speak to the team’s captain to persuade him to stay, but the striker’s inner circle are crystal clear about his plans: “Messi’s time with FC Barcelona is over”.

Still, how the affair will pan out is something that remains to be seen. Messi wishes to invoke a clause that was added in 2017, when the ace extended his contract with Barça, which allows him to terminate his employment unilaterally at the end of the season [without a transfer fee]. However, FC Barcelona argues that this is not applicable, as the clause clearly states that it should be activated before June 10, once the football season is typically over. In contrast, the player’s lawyers believe that the clause can still be invoked because this year’s season has been extended due to covid-19. The club’s management believes that Messi’s claim doesn’t have any legal standing at all, although the Messis have approached several specialists and some claim they do have a case. Others have stated they don’t. Therefore, the matter could end up in court unless both parts can come to an understanding and agree to a transfer, for example to Manchester City.

Inter Milan, among others, would like to sign Messi, whereas PSG and other clubs admit that they cannot afford to because they are already paying Neymar and Mbappé’s wages. In contrast Manchester City have spent the last few days trying to work out if they could afford to pay out about €200 million to woo Messi in a deal that might involve other players, such as Catalan stopper Eric García. In fact, it was Messi who got in touch with [Manchester City manager] Pep Guardiola a few days ago to sound out whether there was any chance of him joining Pep’s team. Manchester City’s CEO, Ferran Soriano, is handling the matter himself. While Barça’s official party line remains that Messi is not for sale and he isn’t going anywhere, a growing number of voices believe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Messi’s became the most expensive football transfer in history, assuming Manchester City could afford a sum like the one PSG paid for Neymar.

Messi remains determined to leave and hopes to reach an understanding in the coming days. The Argentinian press claims that he intends to show up for the first training sessions with the Catalan club’s new manager, Ronald Koeman.