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manchester bound? City in lead to land Lionel Messi as Barcelona presidential candidate hints at exit


Manchester City are hot favourites to land Lionel Messi

Manchester City are hot favourites to land Lionel Messi

Manchester City are hot favourites to land Lionel Messi

Manchester City have been given the most encouragement yet in their pursuit of Lionel Messi, with one of Barcelona’s presidential candidates claiming the forward is “most likely” to leave in the summer.

City believe they would be at the front of the queue to sign 33-year-old Messi if the six-time World Player of the Year decides to quit Barcelona when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Messi has said he would delay a decision on his future until the end of the campaign, despite wanting to quit Barcelona last summer when Josep Maria Bartomeu was still president and predicting the club would struggle to compete for the biggest trophies over the next couple of years, given their financial troubles.

Yet Agusti Benedito – one of the candidates attempting to become Bartomeu’s successor as president in the club elections on January 24 – does not believe the chances of keeping the Argentinian (right) are good and fears he will depart this summer.

“Keeping Messi would be the best news for the club, but I am not very optimistic,” Benedito told ESPN.

“Given the club’s situation, I think it’s important that he stays at Barca, with the understanding that he understands the next two years we have in front us (could be difficult).

“He’s been here for 20 years – he’s a Barcelona fan and I think he’s sensitive to the situation.

“I would have liked him to say in his interview the other week that his desire is to stay at the club, but he didn’t and now we have to wait and see. Remember that in August he said he wanted to leave and now he’s still not cleared up what he wants to do. The most likely outcome I see is that he leaves us in the summer.”

City are thought to be busy pulling together a plan to maximise the benefits of signing Messi, that could involve him playing with the club in the Premier League for a number of years and then potentially finishing his career with one of their sister clubs in the City Football Group stable. Messi has spoken of his desire to play in Major League Soccer in the US one day and City’s Abu Dhabi owners own MLS franchise New York City FC.

City reached their fourth straight League Cup final as goals from John Stones and Fernandinho gave Pep Guardiola’s side a 2-0 win over Manchester United in last night’s semi-final at Old Trafford.

City will meet Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in the April 25 final.

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