City – managed by Messi’s former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola – have emerged as the favourites to sign the Argentina legend after he requested to leave the Nou Camp after almost two decade.
Messi has established himself as one of the greatest players of all time during his spell at Barcelona, scoring more than 600 goals and winning the Ballon d’Or six times, but he has grown increasingly frustrated in recent months.
The situation reached its nadir when Barcelona suffered an embarrassing 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, and the subsequent appointment of Ronald Koeman has not appeased Messi.
The 33-year-old is believed to be keen on a move to Man City to link up with former manager Guardiola and the Premier League club are weighing up an offer, with a cash-plus-player deal likely.
But the situation has been complicated by the fact Manchester City are not prepared to use Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva or Riyad Mahrez in any deal to bring Messi to the Etihad.
The Times say Barcelona are particularly keen to sign Jesus to replace Luis Suarez but that City are determined to hold on to the Brazilian and his team-mates Silva and Mahrez.
Messi is being linked with a move to the MLS as well as Manchester City but Manchester United and England legend Wayne Rooney believes he should remain in Europe.
He said this week: ‘I know he’s getting older but he’s a player who no one has seen before. Messi has everything – he can create goals, score goals, dictate the game and is the best player of all time.
‘He’s one of the only players I’ve sat there and watched and been in awe. Him and Cristiano Ronaldo have set a standard we won’t ever see again and are a different level.’
‘The United States shouldn’t be in his mindset at all because he’s too good for that level. He is miles too good for that level.
‘He could come to the Premier League and be a Player of the Year. One million per cent. If he surrounds himself with Kevin De Bruyne, with Bruno Fernandes, these types of players, he could win a seventh Ballon d’Or.’