Manchester City are in the strongest position to sign Lionel Messi – if the Argentina star can get out of Barcelona this summer.
Sky Sports News has been told that both Messi and City boss Pep Guardiola want to renew their partnership at the Etihad – putting the Premier League runners-up in a commanding lead over other suitors.
Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan are both said to be preparing offers in an attempt to persuade him away from a reunion with Guardiola and a rendezvous with friend Sergio Aguero.
Neymar, with whom Messi struck up a strong friendship during their time together at the Nou Camp, has even asked the PSG hierarchy to sign the 33-year-old, although the club are said to be wary of potential implications on Financial Fair Play.
It remains uncertain that Messi can get out of his Barcelona contract, which still has one year left to run, in the current transfer window, having submitted a written transfer request on Monday.
He wants the club to honour a clause that allows him to leave for free within 10 days of the Champions League final, which technically expired on June 10 after the original fixture was scheduled for May 30, but was delayed until August 23 because of coronavirus.
Barcelona have responded to his request; telling Messi they do not agree the clause is active and the only way he can leave is if he pays the £626m (€700m) minimum fee release clause.
Manchester City are not commenting on Messi’s future – and Sky Sports News had been told they were wary of an ongoing powerplay at Barca, which has seen both head coach Quique Setien and sporting director Eric Abidal sacked, president Josep Bartomeu’s future in serious doubt, and protests from supporters.
But Sky Sports News has been told that, in no uncertain terms, Messi’s transfer request is not a bluff – he is serious about leaving the club at which he has spent his entire career to date.