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Manchester City have not opened transfer negotiations with Lionel Messi and will wait until he has made a decision on his future at Barcelona before considering formal talks, sources told ESPN.
City bosses were outraged by reports that the club had already made Messi an offer for a potential free transfer to the Etihad Stadium in the summer.
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Messi, who has won the Ballon d’Or six times, could leave Camp Nou at the end of the season when his contract expires and City and Paris Saint-Germain are among the clubs interested.
Messi has been in talks with clubs outside Spain since January, but sources have told ESPN that he has yet to make a decision on where he will play next season and that his representatives have not yet negotiated a possible move.
Sources have told ESPN that City will await Messi’s decision before possibly switching suppliers at the end of the season.
It was the same situation as in the summer, when it looked like the 33-year-old was ready to leave the club after requesting a transfer before agreeing to stay with the Spanish giants for another year. The city maintains that no offers were made in the summer before its decision was announced.
Barcelona, meanwhile, has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, while at Camp Nou the uncertainty continues due to the ongoing presidential elections. Following the resignation of Josep Maria Bartomeu in October, a new president must be appointed on 7 October. A new president will be elected in March.
Barcelona’s financial problems, as well as a possible early exit from the Champions League following Tuesday’s heavy 4-1 defeat to PSG, have fuelled speculation that Messi will end his association with the club this summer.
Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa are the three candidates to replace Bartomeu. Each publicly stated that they wanted to keep Messi and ensure the end of his career at Barcelona, where he scored 654 goals in 760 games.
Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid could end up paying €11 million for Luis Suarez, sources confirmed to ESPN.
Suarez, 34, moved to Atletico last September as part of a deal that at the time was worth just a few million dollars in performance-related bonuses.
However, La Liga leaders Atletico have agreed a €5m transfer fee for the striker, who is top scorer in the Spanish league with 16 goals this season, and a further €6m in variable costs.
Atlético have already paid 2 million euros for it, as Suarez has made 20 appearances. He will have to pay an extra €2 million if he reaches the quarter-finals of the Champions League by beating Chelsea. The last addition, also worth 2 million euros, is related to next season’s performance.
Rohyblenko, however, did not have to pay the initial 5 million euros out of his own pocket. The money was erased from Barca’s debt in connection with the 2019 signing of Antoine Griezmann.
Barca paid Griezmann €120 million to buy him out, plus another €15 million – officially as a first option on several Atletico players – when Atletico threatened to sue them for another €80 million because negotiations with the French striker had begun when he still cost €200 million.
The €15 million is to be paid in instalments, but €5 million was withdrawn when Suarez moved to Wanda Metropolitano.
The Barca’s are also increasing Suarez’s salary until the end of the season, when his contract at Camp Nou would have expired. He used to earn around €20 million a year at Barca, but Atletico pay less, so the Catalan club make up the difference.
This report uses information from ESPN correspondents in Barcelona, Moises Llorens and Sam Marsden.
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