Manchester City is calculating whether it can afford to buy Lionel Messi without breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations.
ESPN reports sources at City have said the club wants to be prepared should Messi become available on the transfer market in the coming months.
Messi told Barcelona’s new manager, Ronald Koeman, last week that he is having doubts about staying at the club following its 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Koeman has insisted he wants Messi to stay, and Barcelona’s current stance is that Messi is not for sale unless interested parties are able to match his $825 million release clause.
However, according to ESPN, some club officials are open to the idea of selling the Argentine amid the uncertainty so the Catalan club can use the funds to rebuild its squad.
Messi is also out of contract at the Camp Nou next summer, meaning he could leave for free should he fail to sign a contract extension.
City is one of only two clubs, the other being Paris Saint Germain, that could realistically afford to buy Messi, even if he is sold for a cut price.
However, to remain within UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, the English Premier League club would have to make sure it does not spend more on Messi than the club earned in the last three years to prevent it from falling into debt.
Despite City recording a revenue of $701 million in 2018/19, according to the BBC, and $656 million the year prior, sources have told ESPN a move for Messi is still unlikely to be viable due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic this year.
The club’s finances are also under heavy scrutiny following its recent appeal win over UEFA at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
City was banned from European football for two-years and was fined $34 million in February 2020 after being found guilty of financial doping, however the ban was overturned by CAS in July, though City was still handed a $12 million fine.
Should Messi move to City, he would rejoin forces with Pep Guardiola, the coach with whom he won 14 trophies in four seasons at Barcelona between 2008 and 2012.