Barcelona are desperately trying to broker a £250million compromise with Manchester City over Lionel Messi.
With City’s lawyers now examining the clause in Messi’s contract that gives them hope they can sign the Argentine for free, beleaguered Barca bosses hope that the Blues will agree to a players-plus-cash deal rather than take a £630million gamble in court.
Sunday Mirror Sport understands that both clubs believe Messi is bound for the Etihad.
And that the only detail that remains is whether Messi signs for City with Barcelona’s blessing – or the terms of the most controversial transfer in football history are decided by either FIFA or the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Messi has told the Catalan giants that he is leaving the Nou Camp – and he wants to link up again with Pep Guardiola at the Etihad.
After a decade of trying to lure the 33-year-old to Manchester, the Blues believe they have finally got their man.
New Barca boss Ronald Koeman has told friends in Holland he is already planning for life without the world’s No 1 player.
Koeman’s hopes of brokering a deal that would see Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva move to the Nou Camp as makeweights has already been knocked back by City.
There are players who Guardiola would be prepared to sacrifice – including John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, Benjamin Mendy, Joao Cancelo, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Angelino.
It is yet to be seen whether any of those names would be acceptable to Koeman – although Barcelona do want young City defender Eric Garcia following his decision to reject a new contract.
Barcelona are hoping to also bank at least £120million in cash to enable Koeman to begin his rebuild.
Guardiola and Koeman are former Barca team-mates and remain close friends.
The pair regularly met for dinner when the Dutchman was in charge of Everton.
Guardiola has been spending a few days in Barcelona ahead of returning to oversee pre-season training.
It’s believed he has spoken to both Messi and Koeman about the player’s stand-off with Nou Camp president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Messi continues to insist he is free after triggering a clause in his contract.
Barcelona claim the arrangement expired on June 10 and cannot be revisited until next summer.
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But Messi is arguing that he is within his rights to inform the club of his intention to leave because the season was extended by the coronavirus crisis.
City’s legal team are now on the case – but Bartomeu appeared to confirm Messi’s claim during a television interview last year.
Bartomeu said: “Messi has a contract that he signed two years ago which allows him to leave Barca before the start of the 2020-21 season.
“He can either leave football or go somewhere else.
“Players like him have that freedom because they have earned it.
“They can decide their future.”
In another revealing twist to the tale, Bartomeu has now sacked Barcelona’s legal team at the Cuatrecasas law firm after discovering they had also advised Messi that he is within his rights to quit the club.
It has been reported in Argentina that Messi’s father. Jorge, will arrive in Spain on Sunday in a bid to resolve the situation and secure Messi’s departure to City.
Messi has informed Barcelona that he will NOT be reporting to the club for Covid-19 testing on Sunday.
Paris St Germain stars Neymar and Angel Di Maria have tried to persuade Messi to join them – and the French club have even offered to beat the wage package City have tabled.
Juventus and Inter Milan both want to take the forward to Italy.
But it now seems a question of when the ‘Welcome to Manchester’ posters will be put up for Messi.