Manchester City are being patient in their pursuit of Barcelona superstar and living legend Lionel Messi, who will become a free agent in the summer if he decides to leave Camp Nou, and have been tipped to delay making an approach until March or April.
Messi wanted to leave Barcelona last summer, with an 8-2 Champions League thrashing against Bayern Munich seemingly the final straw. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner believed he had a clause in his contract that would allow him to go for free, but the club contested the validity of it and Messi backed down when it became clear he would have to take them to court to get anywhere.
Now in the final six months of his deal, the 33-year-old is already permitted to negotiate with prospective new clubs with a view to signing a non-contract agreement. But, having been forced to back-track last summer, he hasn’t yet made his mind up over whether he will actually leave.
Despite Barcelona’s spiralling debt and alarming finances, it is still possible he could sign a new contract and end up staying at Camp Nou instead.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are the teams most heavily linked with Messi and with the best realistic chance of signing him if he does quit Barça after 20 years.
But ESPN reports that the two clubs are taking significantly different approaches. While PSG’s pursuit has been much more public, City have been keeping a low profile, opting to give Messi plenty of space instead of aggressively forcing the issue.
ESPN cites one source saying that PSG are ‘making a mistake’ with their strategy because Messi, who has long maintained a high level of privacy, doesn’t like that type of media circus. City’s calmer approach could therefore make more of an impression and it is said that they already did a lot groundwork last year, while some club officials have stayed in contact with Messi’s camp.
Messi said himself in a wide-ranging interview with Spanish broadcaster La Sexta in December that he will not be making a decision on his future before June, when his deal is due to expire. He also said that he would not be talking to clubs any sooner than that, which supports the idea that City stand a better chance by not making a lot of noise about it or crowding him.
“I’m not thinking too far ahead in the short term and just want to see how the season finishes. I will not negotiate with other clubs. I will wait for the season to end and in June I will decide,” he said.
It was reported only last week that Messi was keeping to that stance because he has not engaged with any potential suitors even though his Barça contract is winding down.
Messi did admit in his La Sexta interview that he does talk with City boss Pep Guardiola, but claimed his future and whether they could reunite in Manchester is not something they discuss.
“I don’t know how long my last chat with Pep Guardiola was, but we do talk. We don’t talk about whether we are going to meet again,” he explained.
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