Former Barcelona president reveals how he nearly sold Lionel Messi for €150m in 2006

The offer to trigger the Argentine's release clause came in when he was 18 years old

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The Independent Football

Barcelona’s former president Joan Laporta has revealed how the La Liga giants nearly sold Lionel Messi in 2006 for €150m.

Messi is set to sign a new contract with the Nou Camp club, one that will make him the best-paid player in the world, with his current deal running out in 2018.

The 29-year-old is almost certain to stay, despite his problems with the tax authorities in Spain, but they did nearly lose him 11 years earlier.

Inter Milan were prepared to pay the Argentine’s buyout clause only a few years after he broke into the first team, leaving Laporta having to plead with Messi’s father, Jorge, to have his son remain at Barca.

“It was 2006 when Inter made an offer,” Laporta told The Guardian.

“They were prepared to pay the €150m buy-out clause, which is why we [later] raised it to €250m, but I always felt reassured by my relationship with his dad, Jorge.

“I told him: ‘They’ll have to pay the clause because I won’t sell. He’ll be happy here, he’ll get glory. There, he’ll only win financially. Your son’s destined to be the greatest in history and here he’ll have a team to help get there. He’ll enjoy it’.”

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“I’m very Cruyffista but what Leo does – and I talked about this a lot with Johan – makes him the best in history. Johan said so too.

“Messi’s football is beautiful and effective. For me the best ever are Cruyff, Maradona and Messi. Leo’s a mix of Cruyff and Maradona, but he is Leo Messi.”

Manchester City are the club trying to tempt him to leave the Nou Camp and Laporta has no doubts, that, if Pep Guardiola’s side did pull off the seemingly impossible, Messi would be just as spectacular in the Premier League as he is in La Liga.

“Of course he could do it in England. He has a gift. He could do it covered in mud in the pouring rain.

“He has done it. He’s played in England and been spectacular, he adapts to any circumstance, any conditions. And I love the fact that he enjoys himself and never complains, never dives.

“Yet he has character: it’s a mistake for opponents to forget that. It happened at the Bernabéu: the moment they hit him [Marcelo split Messi’s lip], that was it. Grrr and off he went.”