Guardiola will give City edge over rivals if Messi moves

LONDON • Manchester City are confident they are Lionel Messi's first choice should he leave Barcelona, with the club's senior executives having inquired about the Argentinian.

Although it was established Messi, 28, is content at Barca and has no plans to leave, City believe Pep Guardiola's arrival in the summer will put them in pole position should the five-time World Player of the Year depart.

Guardiola was in charge of Barcelona from 2008-12, when Messi was part of the team that won the first treble in Spanish history, along with a second Champions League, two more La Liga titles and a further Copa del Rey.

Txiki Begiristain, City's sporting director, and Ferran Soriano, the chief executive, also worked closely with Messi when in similar positions at Barcelona. Soriano, in particular, is thought to be close to Messi and his family.

City will monitor Messi's situation should he become unsettled. The player faces a tax case in which he and his father, Jorge, are accused of defrauding the Spanish state of €4.2 million (S$6.4 million) between 2007 and 2009. The court hearing starts on May 31.

Messi is contracted to Barca until summer 2018, when he will be approaching his 30th birthday. He is thought to earn around €20 million a year, or €385,000 a week, and to have a buyout clause of €250 million.

He could expect any deal to take him to the Etihad Stadium to bring a marked increase in salary but City's ability to market the forward as their global icon means his presence at the club would be lucrative.

Other Barca players who would be of interest to Guardiola include midfielder Sergio Busquets, right-back Dani Alves and forward Neymar, who considered an approach from Manchester United last summer.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'Guardiola will give City edge over rivals if Messi moves'. Print Edition | Subscribe