Lionel Messi offers Manchester City encouragement by hinting at move once Barcelona contract expires

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Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi walks on the pitch during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 19, 2020.  - GETTY IMAGES
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi walks on the pitch during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 19, 2020. - GETTY IMAGES

Manchester City will hope Lionel Messi’s desire to play in America one day and fears Barcelona are a fading power could boost their prospects of signing the Argentina forward next summer.

Messi has lifted the lid on a turbulent past year at Barcelona during a candid television interview in which he admitted his wife has repeatedly urged him to seek counselling to help with the psychological burden he has felt.

Despite ruling out a move in the transfer window next month, when he would be free to talk to foreign suitors, the six-time World Player of the Year has admitted he does not know what the future holds for him beyond June when his contract with the Catalan giants expires.

But Messi has given City’s pursuit some encouragement by admitting Barcelona are going to struggle to get back on top with the club in a “really bad situation” and that he would like to play in the US down the line, a wish that could play into the hands of the Premier League club’s owners.

Watch: Koeman grateful for Messi's support in transitional season for Barca

City have been working on a long-term plan to maximise the benefits of potentially signing Messi and are thought to be willing to offer the 33-year-old the opportunity to play for their sister club, New York City FC in the MLS, later in his career. New York are one of 10 clubs in the City Football Group (CFG) stable owned by the Abu Dhabi billionaire, Sheikh Mansour.

“I would like to play in the United States and experience life and the league there … but ultimately come back to Barcelona in some capacity,” Messi told La Sexta in a personal hour long interview. “I’m not thinking too far ahead in the short term and just want to see how the season finishes.”

Barcelona currently trail La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid by eight points and Messi admits it may be a while before the club are competing for the biggest trophies again. The club will hold presidential elections on Jan. 24 but they are in financial turmoil after the accounts for last season revealed net debts had more than doubled to €488 million and it remains to be seen if Messi is prepared to spend next season playing for a team in transition and without the spending power they have enjoyed in the past.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (R) celebrates in front of his coach Pep Guardiola after scoring a goal against VfB Stuttgart - Reuters
Barcelona's Lionel Messi (R) celebrates in front of his coach Pep Guardiola after scoring a goal against VfB Stuttgart - Reuters

“I know the club is in a very bad way,” Messi said. “Whoever does [win the election] will find a very difficult situation, it is not going to be easy to turn this around. It's a difficult moment for the club, for everyone, but those inside the club know that it's in a really bad situation, things are very bad and it's going to be difficult to return the club to where it used to be.”

Messi said he had been in contact with City manager, Pep Guardiola, but not about a potential move to the Etihad Stadium. Messi won three La Liga titles and two Champions League in addition to a host of other trophies under Guardiola at Barcelona and said he was “fortunate” to work with the Catalan.

“His (Guardiola's) way of preparing games was exceptional and his way and the way of working that Luis Enrique worked too was excellent,” Messi said. I was fortunate to work with both men."

Messi had asked to leave Barcelona last summer, only to stay after refusing to drag the club to court in a bid to force a move, but he admitted the situation had taken a heavy toll and that his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, had urged him to seek professional help to cope with the stress.

“I should have gone [to see a counsellor] but I never went,” he said. “I find it really hard to take that step even though I know it’s something that I need. They have insisted many times that it’s what I need. I’m someone who keeps everything in and does not share things. I know I need it. I know it would be good for me but I have not done it."

Messi said he had been particularly dismayed by Barcelona’s treatment of club legend, Luis Suarez, who was permitted to leave for title rivals Atletico in September. Suarez has since scored seven goals in 10 league games to help take the Madrid club to the top of La Liga.

“What happened with Luis Suarez to Atleti was crazy!” Messi said. “He left for free, paying the remaining years of his contract and he joined a team that fight for the same objectives as us. Unbelievable.”

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