Pep Guardiola insists Lionel Messi is not part of Manchester City’s transfer plans after the six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s sensational exit from Barcelona.
Messi was widely expected to sign a new deal at Camp Nou this week, to prolong a career-long association with Barca after his previous terms expired in June.
However, the club issued a statement on Thursday stating “financial and structural obstacles” – relating to both the Blaugrana’s parlous financial state and LaLiga’s strict economic controls – prevented Messi from signing a contract to which he had already agreed.
City were widely understood to be Messi’s preferred destination when he attempted to leave Barcelona 12 months ago, but Paris Saint-Germain are viewed as the frontrunners this time around.
That impression was only heightened after Guardiola ruled out a reunion with his former protege, insisting City would proceed with the transfer plans that saw £100million man Jack Grealish become their record signing on Thursday.
“We have spent £40m on Jack Grealish – 100 we pay and 60 we won last year.” Guardiola said, in one of several reference to the £60m boost his transfer kitty has received from City selling academy and loan players.
“He’ll have the number 10 because we were incredibly convinced with Jack Grealish and were convinced that Leo would continue at Barcelona.
“Right now [signing Messi] is not in our thoughts, absolutely not.”
Jack in action!
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 6, 2021
Messi ascended to his place at the top of world football under Guardiola’s guidance between 2008 and 2012, winning LaLiga on three occasions and the Champions League twice among a host of honours.
“It was a surprise for everyone, me included. President [Joan] Laporta was clear on the reason why,” said Guardiola, who was speaking ahead of Saturday’s Community Shield meeting with Leicester City at Wembley.
“They’d both like to continue. When you have €487m losses in one year the decision is made, unfortunately.
“As a supporter I’d love to him to have finished there but the club is not sustainable. What’s happened is not good there and that’s why they arrived in those terms [of Messi leaving].
“As a fan, incredible gratitude for the most extraordinary player I’ve ever seen in my life. Much more than for the titles he won for Barcelona, for what he did for me, to help me to become a better manager, to go to Munich and England.
“We won a lot, more than that is the incredible about of emotions and feelings to be in front of the TV watching what he can do with the ball with his mates in one football game. Day by day, game by game he did something unique.”
As it stands, Messi’s final appearance in a Barcelona shirt will be a 2-1 home loss to Celta Vigo as LaLiga slipped away last season.
Guardiola hopes a more fitting goodbye can be arranged.
“Hopefully one day we can properly have the best farewell game ever, because he deserves it,” he added. “His contribution helped to take this club to another level, to dominate the world during a decade.”
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