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Transfer of the century suddenly looks on for Man City

| 22.04.2014

The 14-year love affair between Lionel Messi and Barcelona has reportedly broken down to the extent that the Catalans could sell their star player for £250 million this summer, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain ready to battle for the four-time Ballon d’Or winner.

Such a scenario is based upon Barca’s ban from transfer activity being lifted, but should a previously-unforeseeable Messi move become a possibility it is thought that the aforementioned clubs would be willing to meet his stratospheric buyout clause.

City – 2/9 to atone for their Etihad draw against Sunderland with a win at home to West Brom – would expect to have the edge over the Ligue 1 champions in the battle for Messi’s signature.

The blue half of Manchester’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, held the same post at the Camp Nou between 2003 and 2010, during which time Barcelona, and Messi, claimed four La Liga titles and the Champions League twice.

Citizens CEO Ferran Soriano is also a former member of the Los Blaugrana band, while four of the current first team at the Etihad – Sergio Aguero, Martin Demichelis, Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta – are either current or former club or international teammates of the Argentine phenomenon.

A Barcelona/Messi divorce would have been unthinkable before this season, which looks likely to be the 26-year-old’s least productive – in terms of goals – since 2008/09, mainly due to the ankle injury that kept him on the sidelines between November and January.

La Liga’s champions are now 7/1 to reel in leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a seven-point cushion over them, with Diego Simeone’s side 10/11 to bag their first title since 1996 and second-placed Real Madrid – six points behind their neighbours with a game in hand – at 13/10.

Barca boss Tata Martino looks certain to become jobless once the campaign closes, with his side out of the Champions League before the semi-final stage and likely to have nothing to show for their season.

The fee Los Blaugrana would attract for Messi equates to approximately half the projected £500m cost of the planned makeover of the Camp Nou, and a number of media outlets have suggested that Messi could follow compatriot Martino out of the club, as the Barca board believe the player is now worth more to them in the transfer market than on the pitch.

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Alex Fortune