Messi was reported in the Spanish media to have rejected talks for a new contract at the Spanish champions, with his current deal due to expire in 2018.
That led to speculation he could leave the Nou Camp, with the two Manchester clubs, along with Real Madrid, the only ones that could afford his wages.
The 29-year-old’s offer from Barca is believed to be in the region of a staggering £825,000-a-week before tax, and while United would be able to afford that, they believe the Pep Guardiola factor would give City the edge, according to The Sun.
A source told the paper: “City would be the favourites if he were to one day leave, but we would obviously love the sign a player of that level.
“We can certainly compete on the cash front and Messi is an Adidas player like Paul Pogba, so we have our pluses.
“But all the same, we would not get involved in any bidding war unless Messi’s camp gave an indication that he was willing to come here.”
Messi is believed to want to finish his career at Barcelona, something Guardiola has always insisted, and the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu said he was convinced the five-time Balon d’Or winner would stay at the club.
Manchester United transfer targets
Manchester United transfer targets
1/6 Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid)
The 21-year-old Uruguayan has already played 21 times for his country and has been touted as a future world-class centre-back. Currently on the books of Atletico Madrid, Gimenez is not a regular and a move in January for first-team football would surely appeal to him.
2/6 Victor Lindelof (Benfica)
The most recent player to be linked with the Red Devils, Lindelof is a 22-year-old centre-back currently plying his trade at Benfica. The Swedish international has been in fine form this season and could be tempted by a move to England in January.
3/6 Mesut Özil (Arsenal)
The German midfielder has emerged as a shock transfer target for the Red Devils as the Arsenal playmaker demands a substantial increase to his current £140,000 per week contract in North London.
4/6 Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)
The French forward had a brilliant season in Spain last year and was top scorer and Player of the Tournament as he helped his country to the final of Euro 2016. Atletico Madrid would certainly not let him go on the cheap however.
5/6 Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid)
The third Atletico Madrid player reported to be on Mourinho’s wish-list, Carrasco is one of Belgium’s new generation of talent and, at just 23 years of age, has a long career ahead of him. The Belgian is an attacking midfielder who has added a ruthlessness in front of goal to his repertoire this season, contributing nine goals in all competitions.
6/6 Bruma (Galatasaray)
Galatasaray’s fleet-footed winger is rated at around £21.5m and has impressed in the Turkish league this season, receiving five Man of the Match awards in just ten starts so far. Bruma is a fantastic dribbler who would certainly provide competition for places on the left wing.
“All of Barca believe this is how it has to be, because he is the player that in the last few years has brought us sporting success,” he said.
“I believe we've got a team with incredible players, all of them. There is nonetheless a leader of course, Leo Messi, he is well known and popular all over the world.
“We're all convinced, we're all positive Leo Messi will end his sporting career in Barca.”
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