Pep Guardiola has given his take on the speculation surrounding Lionel Messi’s Barcelona future.
The Manchester City manager presided over Messi in his prime during four memorable years at the Camp Nou, during which Barcelona won two Champions League trophies and three La Liga titles.
While Guardiola himself has gone on to new challenges – first with Bayern Munich and now Man City – the ex-Barca midfielder admitted he wants Messi to his career at their boyhood club.
In a press conference ahead of the Citizens’ meeting with Newcastle on Wednesday evening, Guardiola was asked for his reaction to rumours that he may try to bring Messi to Manchester.
But the manager has refused to be drawn on Man City’s transfer plans for the time being.
“As I’ve said before, we’ll talk about the transfer market at the end of the season and I won’t say anything now,” Guardiola explained in his native Catalan.
“But my preference is for Messi to stay at Barcelona.”
Messi has sent the rumour mill into overdrive once again after putting on hold negotiations to extend his current Barcelona contract, which expires at the end of the 2020/21 campaign.
The 33-year-old has already been linked with moves to various Italian clubs, including a mouth-watering crossover with Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus.
But most Barcelona followers expect Messi to remain one of theirs and believe he is simply taking advantage of his strong hand with the club directors.
The two clubs could yet meet in this year’s reorganised Champions League if Guardiola’s men can hold their 2-1 advantage over Real Madrid in the second leg of their last-16 tie at the Etihad.
The draw for the remaining three rounds of the competition, which will all be played as single-legged matches, takes place virtually on Friday lunchtime.