Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has said he wants Lionel Messi to remain at Barcelona amid rumours linking him with the Sky Blues.
According to The Independent’s Mark Critchley, City officials—among them director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano, formerly of Barcelona—are keeping an eye on Messi’s situation at the Camp Nou following his public row with Barca sporting director Eric Abidal.
However, per Goal’s Chris Burton, Guardiola said: “He’s a player for Barcelona. He will stay there. That is my wish. I’m not going to talk about players for another club. I think he’s going to finish his career there. It’s my wish.”
Guardiola spent four years as Barca boss earlier in Messi’s career. Together, they won three La Liga titles, two UEFA Champions Leagues and two Copas del Rey, among other honours.
After the row with Abidal, Barcelona will be concerned that Messi has not yet put pen to paper on a new contract, with his existing deal set to expire next year. What’s more, according to the Guardian’s Sid Lowe, he also “has a clause in his contract which enables him to unilaterally walk away for free” at the end of this season.
Messi will turn 33 in June, but he’s still the best player in the world. In 25 matches this season, he has returned 19 goals and 12 assists for Barca.
Given his experience of working under Guardiola, City would perhaps be the most natural fit for him away from the Camp Nou. The Sky Blues are one of the only teams that could afford to pay his wages too, which would potentially be even higher if he joined on a free transfer.