Manchester City remain heavily linked with Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi in what could be, not just the signing of the summer, but the single biggest transfer of all time.
Here’s a roundup of all the latest rumours and information on the developing saga.
Suggestions that City could include Angelino or Eric Garcia in a proposal for Messi have already been addressed, but Sport now claims others are in the mix as well.
The Barcelona-based newspaper writes that City don’t wish to pay more than €100m (£90m) in cash, which seems fair enough, but are prepared to include more valuable players in the deal. So, as well as Garcia, but not Angelino, that would potentially be Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva.
Silva seems like a strange one given that he has already played 155 times for City in just three seasons and was voted Player of the Year by fans in 2018/19. At 26, he is also just entering his peak years and could still develop and improve further.
Antena 3 cameras witnessed Luis Suarez arriving at Lionel Messi’s house some time on Thursday evening, accompanied by his wife.
The two families are close friends and one of Messi’s reasons for wanting to leave Camp Nou is rumoured to be the treatment of Suarez, who is expected to have his contract terminated, despite the deal still having another year left to run.
That meeting took place not long after it emerged from local network TV3 that president Josep Maria Bartomeu is willing to step down if it means Messi stays.
Of course, it could have been an innocent meet up of friends, but conspiracists are suggesting that Messi’s transfer request could have been manufactured as a political power play.
Although it is thought that City do want to sign Messi and are hopeful of completing a deal, it has also been reported that they are still a little wary of being embarrassed if they fail.
The Sun implies that City want assurance that Messi definitely wants to join them before committing to going all in. It is said they have tried to sign the Argentine twice in the past and were obviously unsuccessful both times. Making the effort this time and missing out would be embarrassing.
But they may not need to worry because it is also said that an intermediary working on behalf of the Messi camp got in contact with them first to gauge interest.
Sky Sports adds that, ‘in no uncertain terms, Messi’s transfer request is not a bluff – he is serious about leaving the club.’ They also report that, ‘Manchester City are the only club on the table as far as Messi is concerned.’
A reason that City should have a degree of confidence that Messi could be their player by the transfer deadline on 5 October is that the 33-year-old is said to have informed Pep Guardiola of his decision to leave Camp Nou before he made that known to Barcelona.
The Times reports that Messi called Guardiola to let him known of his intentions, prior to the infamous burofax sent to the Barça offices. Their conversation is alleged to have ended with Guardiola telling Messi he would inform the City hierarchy that he would love to sign him if he definitely wants to leave Camp Nou. Messi’s reaction to that is not made known, although it has been fairly well established by a number of sources that City are his preferred club.
One of the things that needs clearing up before City can really accelerate their interest and present any sort of formal offer is the legality of the clause in Messi’s contract would theoretically allow him to leave the club for free. The deadline for that was June, which is Barcelona’s position, but the player’s camp is interpreting the date as the end of the season, which was heavily delayed.
As The Athletic puts it, having consulted two Spanish lawyers, the battle is between the ‘literal wording of a contract and the spirit of the law’.
One of those lawyers, Agustin Amoros Martinez, has tipped Messi to contest Barcelona’s position in the form of a lawsuit, arguing in accordance with article 1,281 of the Spanish Civil Code that the ‘the intention behind the wording can be even more important than the literal words in the clause.’
The other, however, suggests Messi’s legal position may not be as strong as hoped. Francisco Dominguez has the view that even if the clause should allow for the extended season, he was still much too late filing his transfer request.
His opinion is that if the actual contract specified 10 June, that is 20 days before the accepted contracted end of any given season on 30 June. Therefore if the end date of the delayed season was considered to be 23 August, when the Champions League final was played, Messi should have submitted the transfer request by 3 August, 20 days earlier.
One counter point to that might be that in usual circumstances the Champions League final would still be around a month before the official end of the season an the game itself wouldn’t mark the end of the season, unlike has happened in 2019/20. If he was giving 20 days’ notice, Messi would have had to inform Barcelona of his intentions while there were still games to be played.
But Dominguez also commented that he has spoken to ‘a lot of legal colleagues’ across Europe and none of them ‘understands Messi’s position’.
Although it seems fairly clear that City want to sign Messi and he would like to join them, there is still at least an element of doubt if a rival club can muster a counter offer.
ESPN notes that Neymar, who became close with Messi during his spell at Camp Nou between 2013 and 2017, spoke to his former teammate on the phone on Thursday and raised the topic of the six-time Ballon d’Or winner potentially joining Paris Saint-Germain. International colleague Angel Di Maria, another PSG player, is also said to have got in touch.
As things stand, PSG are not thought to have made an offer or contacted Messi’s father, Jorge.
Fans of Newell’s Old Boys, Messi’s boyhood club, took to the streets of his home city of Rosario o Thursday to urge the living legend to return.
Messi last played for Newell’s junior ranks when he was 13, prior to leaving Argentina for Spain, but it has long been a distant option that he might one day pull on the shirt again before he retires.
Messi still holds Newell’s dear and his social media team have posted youth team footage on his official YouTube channel in the past.
It is very much the dreamland scenario, however. If Messi were to make that switch, he would be doing it for a love of the club and not much more, with finances a non-starter.
The player has also relatively recently played down suggestions of returning home because his family is comfortable with the life they have built in Europe.
“[Newell’s] is a dream I’ve had since I was little, but I have a family, I have three children, I live in a place that has given me everything and where I am calm and can give my children a spectacular future. We think much more about that than my desire of playing football in Argentina,” Messi told Argentine outlet TyC Sports in 2019.
Whether wanting to leave Barcelona, the club, has any bearing on his long-term home and life in Barcelona, the city, is unclear.
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