Spanish football expert Terry Gibson believes Manchester City could sign Barcelona star Lionel Messi on a free transfer next summer.
In July, Messi agreed terms on a new contract that would keep him with Barca until 2021, but the Argentina international is yet to sign the deal.
Gibson thinks the 30-year-old could be tempted by a move away from the Nou Camp.
“I always thought Lionel Messi, like Andres Iniesta and Xavi, would spend the bulk of the serious part of his career at Barcelona,” Gibson told La Liga Weekly.
“For years I found it hard to envisage how anyone could afford to take Messi away from Barcelona, but now we’ve seen the emergence of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.
“Now I’m looking at the fact he’s got only a year left on his contract. I think the new contract offer is worth €24m-a-year but if he was available on a free transfer Barca’s offer would get dwarfed.
“If a PSG or a Manchester City can get an out-of-contract Messi we’re talking, with the price of players now, €100m, €150m, €200m.
“I know he’s 30 now, but in terms of prestige and what a signing like that can bring to the club would be a real coup.
“It’s not just the marketing, it is 50 games and 50 goals a season in whatever league he goes and plays in. I didn’t think it would happen, but I actually think it might now.”
“For years I found it hard to envisage how anyone could afford to take Lionel Messi away from Barcelona, but now we’ve seen the emergence of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.”
With Barca hit by off-field boardroom wranglings Gibson’s opinion could have some merit, but are they enough to tempt Messi into moving away from the Nou Camp?
Back in February 2016, Josep Colomer, the Catalan scout who is recognised as Messi’s mentor, dismissed suggestions Messi would ever leave Barcelona.
“Everybody wants to see Messi playing in his league,” Colomer told the Independent.
“If I was English I would love to see him playing for a team in my country. But I’m not sure if you take Messi from Barcelona to another philosophy that it would work.
“I don’t see him in another club because already he has realised with Argentina it’s not the same Lionel Messi.
“Messi is Messi in the context of Barcelona. I’m not sure he is going to be the same Lionel Messi in another context.”
Colomer’s views may be over a year old, but they ring as true today as they did back then. Messi and Barcelona are like cheese and biscuits. They fit nicely together.
For all their new-found wealth, neither Manchester City or PSG have the status a club like Barcelona can offer and that carries plenty of weight with Messi.
The contract extension hasn’t been signed yet. It will be.