Manchester City have ended their pursuit of Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, according to Spanish football expert Semra Hunter.
City were understood to be the frontrunners to sign Messi last summer as he demanded to leave Barcelona during a bitter contract dispute, which culminated with the 33-year-old reluctantly staying put at the Nou Camp.
Messi is out of contract at the end of the season, making him free to negotiate with other clubs from January and appearing to make a reunion with former manager Pep Guardiola all the more likely.
However, the Premier League club are no longer keen to sign the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, says Hunter, with his age and €100m-a-year wages (£89m) thought to be a deal breaker for City.
"I have it on good authority from someone close to the situation that Manchester City are not going to bid for Lionel Messi," Hunter told Sky Sports News. "Based on the information I have, as of today, that door is closed.
"They have their reasons for this. They have two reasons for this: age and finances. Talking about age, he is heading into the twilight years of his career and you'll be bringing on board a Messi that is different to what we've seen for the last 17 years with Barcelona. Even he himself has said that he is getting closer to the dreaded r-word of retirement more so than anyone cares to admit.
"That goes hand-in-hand with finances because even though he would be able to join for free, his wages are astronomically high - he is earning about 100m euros-a-year. That would be a huge financial burden for any club to take on, especially given the fact that we are in the middle of a global pandemic.
"Economically, everyone has taken a hit and clubs are not immune from this either. We've seen in the transfer window over the past summer that clubs are changing their strategies. Some of them, like Real Madrid, didn't even buy a single player, most of them are trying to sell, some of them are trying to bide their time and wait so they can make bigger transfers some time down the road. And 100m euros is a huge stress from a wage-bill point of view.
"Either you have to offload some of the highest earners or you have to sell off players or make other tweaks in other parts of the club depending on whatever formula a club would want to use to bring Messi on board.
"Perhaps, clubs would rather invest that money into bringing younger players in or bringing in reinforcements in positions where they actually need those reinforcements."
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says he wants to see Lionel Messi finish his career at Barcelona because of his own strong bond with the Spanish club.
"Leo Messi is a player for Barcelona and if you're asking me for my opinion, I am a person who has a huge gratitude to Barcelona for what they did for me as a player, they gave me absolutely everything, from the start, from my time in the academy," he said.
"So I want him to finish his career there. That is what I want. As a Barcelona fan, I would like for Leo to finish there.
"But this year he finishes his contract and after that, we don't know what will happen and what is in his mind."