In Brief

Lionel Messi 'rejected Barcelona deal' – Man City on alert

Barcelona star turned down new contract offer in summer after tax evasion case and could walk away in 2018

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi has reportedly rejected a new deal with Barcelona, potentially triggering a transfer scramble when his contract runs out at the end of next season.

According to reports in Spain, "the Argentinian has rejected the offer of a new contract extension and will see out his current deal, which ends in 2018, before making a decision on his future", reports the Daily Telegraph.

His decision was prompted by his "ongoing dispute with Spanish tax authorities", explains the paper. "Messi was given a 21-month prison sentence in July for tax evasion after he and his father were accused of using tax havens in Uruguay and Belize to hide more than £3m in earnings."

The Argentine football star has not served any of the sentence but the episode has prompted him to rethink his future. However, newspaper Marca, which broke the story in Spain, says all is not lost for Barcelona.

It points out that Messi endured a turbulent summer, suffering heartbreak in the Copa America final as Argentina were beaten by Chile – and announcing his international retirement – before the shock of the tax evasion case.

However, Messi has since returned to action with Argentina and "the fact that Messi changed his mind with the national team is a reason to see the glass half full when negotiating his new contract", says the paper. It notes that several other key members of the team have signed new deals and Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has recovered from the "initial shock" of Messi's decision, which was reportedly made in the summer.

However, there will be no shortage of interest in the news of his current situation with his club.

"If Messi indicates that he will run down his contract, rather than risk losing him for nothing Barca are likely to be open to offers next summer," says the Manchester Evening News.  

Under Pep Guardiola, Manchester City look like the team best positioned to lure him away from the Camp Nou. "City are confident that they will be at the head of the queue for his services if he does ever move on from his only senior club," says the paper.

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