Manchester City have told Barcelona they are willing to break the world transfer record to sign Lionel Messi in a £100m deal, with negotiations said to have taken place at the end of 2016 to prove the Premier League club’s seriousness over a deal.
City’s links with Barcelona are well documented, with Pep Guardiola not the only former Barcelona staff member currently plying his trade at the Etihad Stadium. Both Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, City’s director of football and chief executive officer respectively, helped Guardiola morph Barcelona into the dominant force it became under the Spaniard’s tenure, while goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was a summer addition from the Catalan club with Yaya Toure also joining from the Nou Camp.
Now, The Sun claims that talks between the two clubs were held at the end of December in order for City to prove they are serious about signing Messi. The Argentina international has been linked with a possible move away from Barcelona as the two parties continue to stall on a new contract, though the club are determined to tie down his long-term future and not allow him to leave.
It’s added that no official bid was made during the negotiations with City, but the talks were instead to prove that the Premier League side are ready to top the £89m that Manchester United paid Juventus for Paul Pogba last summer.
City are also in the headlines over the future over goalkeeper Bravo, who has proven far from convincing this season. Guardiola made the big call to send long-time No 1 Joe Hart out on loan to Torino after signing 33-year-old Bravo from Barcelona, but the Chile international – who will turn 34 before the end of the season – has struggled behind an unreliable defence.
Bravo failed to make a save against Everton at the weekend in the 4-0 defeat by Everton, and of the last 24 shots at City’s goal, he has conceded 14 times. According to the Daily Mail, City are already planning to move for a new goalkeeper in the summer, although it appears that Hart remains out of Guardiola’s plans.
With Hart set to move on and Willy Cabellero out of contract, Guardiola must decide if he will stick with Bravo as his No 1 and bring in a young understudy, or move for a proven goalkeeper that can slot in ahead of Bravo in the pecking order. The report adds that City have a £13.2m buyback clause for Real Sociedad’s Geronimo Rulli, while there remains interest in Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford and Benfica’s Ederson.
From Manchester to London and the latest on the Diego Costa situation at Chelsea that had appeared to threaten the Premier League champions-elect cruise towards the title. The row between Costa and Antonio Conte last week left many believing it was the chance for their rivals to challenge the Blues, but instead Chelsea thumped Leicester City 3-0 and looked just as impressive without the Spain international.
The Independent revealed on Monday that Chelsea will not sell Costa in January, but two bids are expected to be made in the summer from former club Atletico Madrid and, more surprisingly, Barcelona. The Catalans are concerned that the trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have not clicked as well as they’re used to this season, and there is little depth in attack if one of them is injured or off-form – as Neymar has been of late.
Costa was believed to have clear-the-air talks planned for Tuesday with Conte, but The Guardian claims this is no longer the case as Conte does not want him to apologise, but instead earn is place back in the team.
Across London, the latest on Dimitri Payet’s future is that West Ham and Marseille held talks on Monday evening but failed to reach an agreement that would see the midfielder return to the Ligue 1 club that he left in 2015. Payet is refusing to play for West Ham, leaving the east Londoners little option than to get rid of him.
However, the board are holding out for their valuation of Payet, which is said to be in the region of £35m, and The Independent revealed that Marseille are currently unwilling to exceed their £20m valuation of the 29-year-old despite making two offers for him.
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