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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Stuart Brennan

Pep Guardiola breaks silence on Lionel Messi exit amid Man City transfer speculation

Pep Guardiola says Lionel Messi is not in Manchester City's thoughts after they spent £100million on Jack Grealish.

Barcelona announced last night that they had been able to effect an agreement they had with the 34-year-old star that would have allowed him to stay at the Nou Camp on a reduced salary.

The club said that because of the restrictions of La Liga's salary cap, they were unable to retain Messi and were letting him go, putting clubs across the world on alert.

But many feel Barca's shock announcement was a ploy in the battle brewing between them and the league over the salary cap and their opposition to a new investment from private equity firm CVC.

City have always felt that if Messi was available, they would be at the front of the queue to sign him, given his strong connections to Guardiola, chief executive Ferran Soriano and football director Txiki Begiristain — all of whom he worked with at Barca.

But Guardiola said that there are no current plans to pursue Messi, after they spent £100million, partly off-set by the £60milion sales of fringe players, to bring in Jack Grealish.

"We spent £40m on Jack Grealish," he said when asked if there was interest in Messi. "We paid £100m and brought £60m.

"He will wear the number 10 because we were convinced with Grealish and we were were convinced Leo would continue at Barcelona, so right now he is not in our thoughts."

But last summer, when there appeared to be a real prospect of the Argentina international signing, he changed his mind late in the day — and City were not prepared to put their current transfer plans, now centred around Harry Kane, on hold for a pursuit that might prove to be pie in the sky.

But Guardiola, as a Barcelona fan and former player and manager, said: "It looked like it finished well in terms of him continuing with Barcelona.

"It was a surprise for everyone — me included. The president was clear today. I didn't speak with the player or the president so I don't know what has happened but as a supporter of the club I would love for him to have finished, but today the club needs to be sustainable and what happened in the last year was really not good.

"As a fan, I have incredible gratitude for the most extraordinary player I have seen in my life, for the titles he helped to Barcelona, to help me personally, to help me to go to Munich and then to England.

"More than that, the incredible amount of feelings and actions in front of the TV and watch what he can do with the ball, with his mates in one football game.

"Day by day, game by game, every three days he made something unique. All I can say is thank you so much to bring Barcelona to another level, to allow Barcelona to dominate the world for a decade, and I wish him the best for the last few years of his career.

"He will not be forgotten. Hopefully one day we can say the best every because he deserves it. But if president Laporta arrives in this situation, he should do it unfortuantely because someone before didn't do well."

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