REVEALED: Man City have a 10-YEAR strategy to maximise Lionel Messi’s pulling power – including a potential swansong in New York – with club able to discuss a free transfer from January 1 after summer move from Barcelona collapsed
- Manchester City showed the strongest interest in Lionel Messi over the summer
- Pep Guardiola remains interested in signing the Argentinian maestro in 2021
- Messi could play for another City Football Group side, possibly New York City FC
- The serial record-breaker can negotiate a free transfer move from January 1
- Guardiola and Messi won 14 trophies in four years together at the Nou Camp
Messi was scuppered in his attempts to secure a move to the Etihad Stadium over the summer after failing to argue that a release clause in his Nou Camp contract had not expired.
City remain interested in signing the Argentine superstar next year and Sportsmail has learned of plans to discuss a decade-long association with City Football Group (CFG).
Lionel Messi sensationally asked to leave Barcelona last summer after 16 years in the first team
That would start with a multi-year contract to play for Pep Guardiola, who committed his next two seasons to City last week.
Yet club officials, who believe the influx of fresh commercial revenues would go a long way to financing a mega-money deal, hope a prospective relationship would extend far further.
The option of Messi starring for another CFG team has been floated, with New York City in the United States suggested as an obvious possible destination.
But the idea of the 33-year-old sticking with the group represents significant intrigue and raises the prospect of Messi finishing his career in other far-flung parts of the globe.
Messi and Pep Guardiola enjoyed a phenomenally successfully spell together at Barcelona
New York City FC has been suggested as another possibility for Messi if he leaves Barcelona
City, who own 10 clubs, have roots down in China, India, Japan and Australia. Sources stressed that the idea is fluid and would likely take in some form of ambassadorial role in the future.
That is dependent on Messi’s agreement and – given Barcelona’s steadfastness that he would not leave this year – the topic of playing elsewhere under the CFG umbrella or other roles was not broached in the summer.
There is a belief that the marketing upsides of signing Messj would help propel City into one of the world’s super clubs. Finalising a deal to retain their association with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner well into his 40s would act as a huge financial impetus and create countless opportunities in foreign markets City want grow their allure.
Messi, rested for Barcelona’s Champions League tie at Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday night, has not made a firm decision on his future. He is free to speak with interested parties regarding a free transfer from January 1, with talk set to intensify over the coming weeks.
Man City are set to move for Messi in January after Guardiola signed a new contract