Manchester City are monitoring Lionel Messi’s public fall-out with Barcelona should he exercise a clause in his contract and leave Camp Nou this summer.
Messi’s long-term future at his boyhood club was thrown into doubt earlier this week when the Barça captain publicly called out sporting director Eric Abidal.
Abidal criticised the Barça players’ work rate under former head coach Ernesto Valverde, who was sacked and replaced by Quique Setien last month.
Messi played alongside Abidal between 2007 and 2013 but took exception to his comments, accusing him of “dirtying” the players and asking him to “give names”.
Messi’s Barcelona contract, which is set to expire next summer, contains a clause that allows for him to leave for free at the end of this season if he wishes.
But Messi is yet to extend his stay beyond 2021, having last renewed in 2017, and expressed his disappointment last summer when the club failed to re-sign his former team-mate and friend Neymar.
Independent UK says reports in Spain on Thursday night suggested Messi and Abidal had settled their differences after clear-the-air talks with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Any Messi exit remains unlikely, as his many potential suitors would accept, and the 32-year-old has repeatedly said he wishes to end his career at Barcelona.
In the event that Messi did leave Camp Nou this summer, City would expect to lead the race to sign a player who Pep Guardiola has consistently hailed as the greatest of all time.
Messi retains strong links with his former manager Guardiola, but also City director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano from their time at Barcelona.
Guardiola has always insisted that he would not attempt to prise Messi away from Camp Nou, claiming last season: ”I said a thousand times I want him to stay at Barcelona.”
“He has earned that freedom to decide his future, but he is very Cule and I am calm. Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta and [Carles] Puyol had the same clause.
The existence of a break clause in Messi’s contract was confirmed by Bartomeu in September. “Messi signed until 2021. It was agreed that at the end of the penultimate season he is at liberty to leave for free,” he told Barça TV.
“We couldn’t give Messi a different clause, but I repeat, I am in no doubt he will stay for many years.”