The odds of Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona for a record fee in 2016 have been dramatically slashed from 33-1 to 5-1 in the wake of reports linking him to Manchester City.
Barcelona are enduring some well-documented financial struggles but are nevertheless determined to keep hold of their biggest stars—Messi being the brightest of them all—so it would take a record-breaking bid for the Blaugrana to even entertain the notion of letting him go.
Even then, City would probably still have to match his reported £177 million buyout clause, per Sport (h/t Joe Ridge for MailOnline).
The Argentinian has bagged 13 goals and six assists this season despite spending a significant spell on the sidelines through injury, and he recently reached an incredible milestone at the Camp Nou, per Grup 14:
Grup 14 @G14_en
Congrats, Leo! 425 goals and 160 assists in 500 official games for @fcbarcelona is just amazing! #Messi500 https://t.co/75FquGf9bB2015-12-30 21:26:38
The 28-year-old also reached two other stunning milestones in 2015:
Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117
Lionel Messi has won every competition he played for Barça at least three times.2015-12-20 12:30:05
Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117
Messi scored in seven different competitions in 2015, all time record.2015-12-20 11:11:44
While Man City can offer Messi all the riches in the world, their best chance of landing him would be if they can secure the services outgoing Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola in the summer, as the Spaniard served as Messi's mentor at Barcelona.
Even if they're able to pull off the stunning coup of landing the manager, Messi has every reason to stay with the Catalan giants, and very few to leave the club willingly, so don't expect him to be heading for the exit door at the Camp Nou just yet.
In January, Barca could be set to lose one of their other players so long as Liverpool are willing to stump up the cash.
According to the Sunday Mirror (h/t Kristian Walsh of the Liverpool Echo), Barca have put a £20 million price tag on Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the face of reported interest from the Reds.
Liverpool are understandably eager to improve their goalkeeping situation, with Simon Mignolet routinely failing to impress, and with Ter Stegen playing second fiddle to Claudio Bravo in La Liga, they likely sense there is an opportunity to tempt the German into making a move.
As noted by Grup 14's Sergi Dominguez, one of the 23-year-old's key strengths is his distribution:
Sergi Domínguez @FutbolSergi
Ter Stegen's distribution is something else.2015-9-29 19:22:00
Given his considerable potential and the fact Bravo is 32, Barca would likely prefer to keep the stopper at the club.
However, he's not indispensable like Messi, and the Blaugrana might have to sell in order to buy this January, according to Sport (h/t Goal). Therefore, it's conceivable they would allow Ter Stegen to leave for the right price.