Canalplus journalist Romain Collet-Gaudin broke the ‘story’ first and this was rapidly followed by a slew of tales that the Premier League club’s representatives met with the Argentine’s agent and a deal was hammered out.
The 30-year-old’s social media accounts were examined in detail and it was ‘discovered’ that he follows Manchester City on Instagram. Being football 2 + 2 = 5; Messi was on his way out of the Camp Nou.
Neither club dignified the story with a comment with Barcelona preferring to point to Messi’s contribution to the 2 – 0 win over Real Betis on an emotionally-charged night in the Camp Nou. In honour of the victims of last week’s atrocity in Barcelona, the club wore a one-off shirt with Messi playing a starring role.
Were the man many regard as the best player in the world to leave the Catalan capital, it would end a seventeen-year association with the club. Barcelona funded medical treatment for a growth hormone deficiency when he was 13 and reaped the rewards for their investment ever since.
These though, are troubled times at the Camp Nou. Neymar Jr’s defection to PSG shocked football and there is a sense of a changing of the guard with new boss Ernesto Valverde struggling to attract new blood to the club.
Liverpool are resisting Barcelona’s attempts to sign Philippe Countiho, 25, despite the Blaugrana placing a deadline on the deal. Despite this, bookmakers still put Barcelona in the driving seat as evens favourites to land the Brazilian.
Claims in France suggest Jean Michael Seri’s release clause of £35m was time-constrained and that window has closed. It will cost significantly more to free the 26-year-old from his Nice cage.
While these delays irritate the Barcelona fans, losing Messi would be calamitous and unpalatable.