Manchester City are confident Lionel Messi would take a different approach if Barcelona weakened their stance and decided to negotiate the sale of the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, sources told ESPN.
Paris Saint-Germain have also expressed interest in signing Messi, sources told ESPN that Neymar spoke to him on the phone on Thursday about the possibility of a move to France.
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Despite this, City are still Argentina’s most likely destination internationally if they manage to force a move from Camp Nou, while sources have told ESPN Messi has requested a meeting with the Barca board to facilitate his exit.
City are aware that completing a deal will be extremely difficult due to Barca’s reluctance to sell and the cost of the operation. However, they are hopeful that the Catalan club will eventually step down and agree to leave Messi for a reasonable price, given his desire to leave.
Sources told ESPN that Messi called coach Pep Guardiola last week to tell him he wanted to leave Barcelona after almost 20 years. There is still no agreement between City and Messi, but the club talks almost daily with his father, Jorge, and is working on a number of possible formulas.
The first, as reported by ESPN earlier this week, would see Messi sign a three-year deal with City, with the option to then move to partner club New York City FC for another two years at the end of his career.
Another idea on the table is an initial two-year deal with the possibility of an additional year based on a number of different objectives. Other options have also been discussed. Messi’s father is still in Argentina, but is expected to fly to Europe soon as negotiations pick up pace.
City knows that the option to sign Messi for free is remote. Messi told Barca that he had implemented a clause in his deal that could have left him for nothing, but the side of La Liga insisted that clause expired in June.
As reported by ESPN earlier this week, City would be willing to pay between € 100 and € 150 million, which is substantially less than the € 700 million buy-out clause in its contract, which expires in June 2021.
City would be willing to include certain players in any potential deal, but sources close to the club insisted that Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez would not be used as power weights in any transfers this summer.
Messi is due to undergo a coronavirus test at Barca’s training ground on Sunday ahead of the start of preseason under new coach Ronald Koeman on Monday. It is not yet clear if he will come.
Barca were first informed by Messi that he wanted to on Tuesday. On Thursday, President Josep Maria Bartomeu leaked that he would resign if that is what is needed to make Messi a U-turn on his decision.
Bartomeu said he would step aside and hold the board accountable until the March elections when Messi publicly said Bartomeu was the problem. There has been no response from the Messi camp, but sources told ESPN that Messi will speak about the reasons he wants to leave at some point. However, there are no plans to say anything directly.
Messi’s desire to leave is rooted in problems on the field – particularly shortcomings in the Champions League since 2015 – and off the field, where he has clashed over a number of issues with the board.