Lionel Messi personally reached out to Pep Guardiola over the feasibility of a blockbuster move to Manchester City.
Sportsmail understands the 33-year-old, whose future at the Nou Camp hangs in the balance, called his old boss following the humbling of both Barcelona and City in the Champions League.
That conversation, amid the backdrop of escalating frustration with the Barcelona hierarchy, fuelled the start of this summer’s most dramatic transfer story. Guardiola is understandably enthused at the prospect of a reunion.
City are cautiously optimistic about their chances of striking a deal to land the 33-year-old but sources were calling for calm and patience – particularly given the legal minefield surrounding Messi’s potential departure and clear disagreements over
Sportsmail revealed on Thursday that the upscaling of existing commercial contracts, by implementing a ‘Messi tax’ if brands wanted the Argentine associated with their product, would go some way to making the switch financially viable.
Caution is being urged given the political games currently at play in Catalonia. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu made it known that he would be willing to step down from his role.
That was seen as effectively calling Messi’s bluff, although sources again insisted that he has his heart set on leaving after lifting ten La Liga titles and scoring 634 goals for the club.
As well as believing his contract allows him to leave for free Messi also feels he has a right to the same free-agent departure afforded Xavi and Andres Iniesta when they left the club. But Barcelona insist that moving to a Champions League rival would be a very different switch than going to Qatar or Japan.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, who came through the Bareclona academy and was assistant to Guardiola at City, said: ‘It’s always sad to see in my opinion the best player in football history leave that football club. Let’s see what happens, if he comes to England we’re all going to enjoy it.’
Meanwhile, City’s women’s team are set to make two statement signings next week as England internationals Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood leave Lyon.
Bronze spent three years at the Etihad before heading for France in 2017 and the full back is set to re-sign for City after the conclusion of the Champions League. Lyon face Wolfsburg in the final on Sunday looking to win the competition for a fifth consecutive season.
Greenwood is formerly of Manchester United and moved to Lyon last year. The 26-year-old is seen as someone who can play at left back or fill in at centre half.
Gareth Taylor’s side have been on a recruitment drive this summer, with Sportsmail revealing in January that providing extra resource to mould the team into one that can challenge Lyon for European honours was a major priority of the City Football Group board.