Manchester City have the financial strength to sign Lionel Messi next summer if the Barcelona forward still wishes to leave, says the Premier League club's chief operating officer.
Messi had sought to leave Barcelona for free at the end of last season and he favoured a reunion with his former head coach Pep Guardiola in Manchester.
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But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner got into a bitter contract dispute with the club he joined as a teenager from his native Argentina and, ultimately, had no choice but to stay in Barcelona.
City missed out but, according to chief operating officer Omar Berrada, the club will be ready to pounce should Messi allow his contract with Barcelona to expire next summer.
He told the Manchester Evening News: "He's the best player in the world, he's the best player of his generation. I think any club in the world would like to explore the possibility of him joining their team.
"He's probably an exception to potential investments that we'd do... but our planning has been done with this current squad and it is being considered with the current opportunities that we have.
"For every single position we have to be prepared because there can be so many things that can happen but, at the same time, I think we have the financial strength and system ability to make that investment when required."
Suarez: Messi could be convinced to stay at Barca
Atletico Madrid striker Luis Suarez believes Messi, his former Barcelona team-mate, could be tempted to remain at Barca beyond this season if there is a change at the club at board level.
Suarez only left Barcelona last month but said he was left in tears because of the treatment he received from the club after he was told his services were no longer required.
Messi, too, has been critical of the running of the club, calling out president Josep Maria Bartomeu for criticism this summer after he was forced to stay at the club.
But the former Liverpool striker is optimistic that Messi, who can start negotiating with other clubs from January, could have a future in Catalunya beyond this season, provided Bartomeu is removed.
"Maybe there's the possibility of him playing for another club, but if he feels comfortable and happy, and a new board come in, he will want to stay at the club," Atletico Madrid striker Suarez told ESPN television's 90 Minutes.
"As a friend I will be happy if things go well for him (at Barca), but also if he goes to another club."
Bartomeu has called club elections for March 2021 but could be forced out sooner, with a no confidence vote set to be launched against him and the board.
Lionel Messi's "brutal" decision to stay at Barcelona sent shock waves around the world - but which side won?
Sky Sports News reporters Kaveh Solhekol and Dharmesh Sheth followed this monumental transfer story and were on the The Transfer Show when news broke of Messi's U-turn.
A heated debate then ensued...
Kaveh: Messi has backed down
"This is Barcelona 1, Lionel Messi 0. Whatever he says, he's been forced to back down. He wanted to leave on his terms and he was trying to pull a fast one on Barcelona with this clause in his contract that meant he could leave for free. Whatever way you look at it, the Barcelona president is the winner at this stage."
Dharmesh: Barcelona will be out of pocket
"I disagree. I don't think you can say Barcelona have come out on top here. Yes, they've kept him. But they wanted money for him. Now they have an unhappy Lionel Messi. What will happen now is that Messi will stay for the remainder of his contract and Barcelona will get no money at all whereas if an agreement could have been struck it would have been different.
*This story was published on August 26, 2020
Sky Sports football writer Adam Bate...
The Argentina forward looked likely to play out his entire career at Barcelona but opened the door for a transfer on Tuesday evening.
Alongside rival Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi has been hailed as the greatest player of the modern generation - and perhaps ever.
His legendary status is undeniable. But does he remain, right now, at the peak of his powers? It's a question any potential suitors will have to weigh up as they consider a huge financial package to take him from Barcelona.