Lionel Messi could become a Premier League player in time for the start of the 2020-21 season.
The legendary Argentine forward is desperate to leave Barcelona after his relationship with the club’s hierarchy broke down.
And Manchester City are firm favourites to seal Messi’s signature, despite interest from a host of other European giants, including Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan.
City boss Pep Guardiola has, according to reports, already spoken with Messi about a potential move to the Etihad Stadium.
Messi enjoyed four of the best years of his illustrious career under Guardiola at Camp Nou between 2008-2012 and is expected to reunite with his former boss in Manchester.
Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, two of City’s most influential employees, also know Messi well from their time at Barça.
Furthermore, Messi is also close friends with City striker Sergio Aguero.
According to a reliable report from The Times – written by Martyn Ziegler, Paul Hirst and Ian Hawkey – City are now “optimistic” about signing the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
The Premier League heavyweights have been working for more than a week to secure a deal for arguably the greatest footballer of all time.
A City source has told The Times of the club’s confidence that a deal can be made.
The report adds that Soriano, City’s chief executive, has made it clear that the English club have the financial capacity to conclude a deal – even if that means paying a transfer fee.
However, City believe they could potentially sign Messi on a free transfer.
Despite that, City and Barcelona are both reportedly anxious to avoid a court battle and a ‘likely compromise’ would be for the Spanish outfit to accept a fee of around €100 million.
This was the same fee Juventus paid Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo, who was 33 at the time, in the summer of 2018.
A cash-plus-player deal may also be agreed, with Spanish defender Eric Garcia moving to Camp Nou as part of the transfer.
It’s unclear whether Messi will take a pay-cut to seal a move to City.
The South American’s current contract is worth a minimum of £78 million a year in wages and image-rights payments.
This figure can reach £100 million with performance bonuses.
The Times say it’s been suggested that a ‘more creative deal’ is being explored in which Messi could be employed by City Football Group, which also owns New York City Football Club and Melbourne City Football Club.
In any case, City are now confident of completing the biggest signing in football history.
Journalist Duncan Castles, meanwhile, tweeted on Wednesday evening: “Understand that Lionel Messi has decided to join Manchester City.”
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