In Depth

Man City on alert as Lionel Messi hands in Barcelona transfer request

Premier League club ‘crunch the numbers’ over a potential deal - but do they really need him?

The world of football is in shock after Lionel Messi handed in a transfer request at FC Barcelona.

According to BBC Sport, the Argentine sent a fax to the Spanish club requesting his right to exercise a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave for free with immediate effect.

Barcelona do not agree that the clause is still active, Sky Sports reports: it is said to have expired on 10 June. However, Messi and his team believe the clause should be extended to reflect the prolonged season. 

His current deal expires in 2021 and he has a buy-out clause set at a whopping €700m (£631.7m). The BBC says a legal battle is set to follow between the club and player.

Sources have told ESPN that Manchester City are “crunching the numbers” to see if they can afford the six-time Ballon d’Or winner without breaching Financial Fair Play rules.

The Daily Mail reports that Messi has “already contacted Pep Guardiola over a sensational move to Manchester City”. But Barcelona believe Manchester United have started negotiations with the player’s agent.

Barca in crisis 

Messi’s future has been the subject of rumour following a torrid season for Barcelona in which they failed to win a trophy. 

Since the turn of the year the Catalans have sacked two head coaches, lost the La Liga title to Real Madrid and suffered a humiliating 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the Uefa Champions League quarter-final. 

In February Messi was also involved in a “row” with sporting director Eric Abidal following the sacking of Ernesto Valverde - which had already put Man City on “red alert”

After Quique Setién’s firing last week, Ronald Koeman was appointed as the new head coach at Barca and Messi is regarded as a key “pillar” in the rebuild of the Camp Nou squad.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu says Messi is not for sale, but The Sun reports that City are willing to pay “whatever it takes” to clinch a deal for the world’s best footballer.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures during the 2-1 win against Real Madrid

Peter Powell/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Do City really need Messi? 

Man City head coach Guardiola would surely welcome Messi to the Etihad Stadium having previously managed the forward when he was Barcelona boss. 

The pair won the Champions League together with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, but Guardiola and City are still to add Europe’s top club trophy to their cabinet. 

The potential arrival of Messi would signal City’s intention to win back the Premier League title from Liverpool and try again to become champions of Europe. 

However, is it in attack where City really need reinforcements?

Argentinian 32-year-old striker Sergio Agüero, City’s all-time record goalscorer, will need replacing in the next season or two, but is a 33-year-old Argentine (Messi) the right player to come in?

During Guardiola’s time at the Etihad, City have not exactly lacked goals. In the 2018-19 domestic treble-winning season City scored 169 goals as they lifted the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup. And in 2019-20 they scored 149 goals with five players - Raheem Sterling (31), Gabriel Jesus (23), Agüero (17), Kevin De Bruyne (16) and Riyad Mahrez (13) - all reaching double figures. 

But after finishing second in the Premier League, 18 points behind Liverpool, and also getting knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by Lyon, Guardiola will be looking to improve his squad yet again.

Kalidou Koulibaly Napoli
Defence is key

If Guardiola is to win the Champions League for the first time with City, it will take a number of big signings to bring the silver trophy to the blue side of Manchester.

Securing Messi would no doubt bring more goals to his attacking line-up, but defensive reinforcements will also need to be made. 

The Sky Blues have already announced the £41m signing of Dutchman Nathan Ake from Bournemouth and according to reports one of Europe’s most in-demand defenders could also be heading to the Etihad. 

The Manchester Evening News says Napoli and Senegal centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly is City’s “top transfer target” this summer and a deal is reportedly close to completion.

With Ake already in and a deal for Koulibaly looking near, the new-look defence could make the vital difference for City’s ambitions of winning back the Premier League title. 

Bringing in a superstar like Messi may just help City secure the Holy Grail, the Champions League. The finance department at the Etihad will no doubt be busy crunching those numbers.  

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