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What is the latest on Messi transfer?

Guillem Balague's BBC Sport column

If we are talking percentages then Manchester City are very much in the driving seat to be Lionel Messi’s next club.

And, perhaps most intriguingly of all, Juventus are now looking at the hugely unlikely scenario of organising some very daring financial deals and sponsorships that could see Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo playing together for the first time.

What a mouth-watering prospect that would be. But it is also close to impossible.

At the end of a week of countless headlines and rumours, there are two things we know above anything else: Messi very much wants to leave Barcelona and Barcelona would very much like him the Argentina forward stay.

That element is simple, but it promises to become a much more complicated scenario because both sides are absolutely convinced the ’10 June clause’ – the one that enables Messi to leave for free – gives them the right to defend their position.

Messi thinks he can walk away for nothing because that date was intended to be, effectively, the end of the season. However, the coronavirus pandemic meant the campaign ended up finishing with the Champions League final on 23 August, two days before Messi let Barcelona know his intentions in an official way (more on that later).

Barca firmly believe the time for him to declare desire to leave has elapsed and that the 33-year-old is contracted until the end of 2020-21.

The lawyers will be licking their lips in anticipation.

Lionel Messi with his hands in the air
Lionel Messi has won six Ballons d’Or as a Barcelona player

From Messi’s side nothing has changed. He would like to leave on the best terms possible.

Barcelona have said the player is not for sale – unless of course someone thinks it is worth shelling out the 700m euros needed to trigger his buyout clause at this stage – and see no point in any further meetings for now.

Messi does not want to depart in a bad way, not because of the board but certainly because of the respect he has for the club and their fans.

Many people have focused on the burofax sent to tell Barcelona of his intention to leave, claiming it was a disrespectful way of handing in his notice. It was nothing of the sort. It was confirmation – a form of recorded delivery – that informed the club in writing what Messi had told them verbally on numerous occasions since he ceased contract renewal negotiations around March.

It was just a logical step along the way, with a meeting to try to arrange a friendly exit the next logical step. Messi’s strategy has been unchanged throughout. The change would be if he decided to go to war with the club.

The Argentine has no plans to make any statements in the immediate future, certainly not while there are still so many things to discuss and everything is up in the air. When things start to move in the right direction for him, Messi will be prepared to explain his feelings, but not before.

The players have to do their pre-season tests on Sunday and then training starts on Monday.

Rumours Manchester City would be prepared to let any regular starters go in exchange for Messi are way off the mark. Defenders Angelino or Eric Garcia could feature in a deal.

No club is going to be able to pay a transfer fee of 100m euros plus Messi’s salary, even taking into consideration his wages will be reduced wherever he goes next.

Barcelona will not accept a swap of players; they do not want anyone from City. They do not want to sell and would only be prepared to meet Messi in order to renew his contract, not to negotiate a way out.

Everybody is positioning on clear terms. All that makes the resolution impossible to predict.

Josep Maria Bartomeu clearly does not want to be the Barcelona president who lets Messi go.

But who is he thinking about? Certainly not the club because, as things stand, he plans to keep an unhappy player who does not want to be there and who can go for free in 12 months.

Messi’s departure would allow Barcelona to let other players grow and develop next season.

And what players they are. Frenkie de Jong, Miralem Pjanic, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Gerard Pique and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to name just a few.

They would need to buy a strong central midfielder and a centre-back either now or soon, but that is entirely doable.

To insist on not letting Messi leave shows short-sightedness on the part of Bartomeu.

We wait to see what happens next, starting with whether Messi turns up for training on Monday.

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