While several steps are necessary to make a partnership a reality, Manchester City are performing their due diligence surrounding a possible pursuit of Barcelona star Lionel Messi, according to ESPN's Moises Llorens and Rodrigo Faez.
Llorens and Faez reported City "are crunching the numbers" to determine whether they could realistically sign Messi while staying within UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules.
Some wondered whether FFP-related guidelines would actually have any teeth going forward after City successfully appealed their two-year European ban in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
However, the ESPN report referenced that ruling and said "City's finances are under the microscope more than ever" as a result. The club's hierarchy may shy away from spending lavishly on a star such as Messi, lest they face another battle with UEFA.
Barcelona's need for rejuvenation became abundantly clear following their 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
The Athletic's Dermot Corrigan reported earlier this month that Barca would probably consider selling almost anybody on their roster, but finding any takers could prove difficult. The club has the highest wage bill of any sports franchise in the world with an average salary of nearly $12.3 million.
Unless Barcelona can offload some of their most expensive veteran players, the scope of their incoming transfers will be limited.
Selling Messi would alleviate Barca's financial burden, but even that will be tricky. He has a €700 million release clause. Assuming the final number would be lower, a likely nine-figure transfer fee—on top of his wages—for a 33-year-old is a costly pursuit, especially as clubs are seeing significantly less revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Manchester City are one of the few suitors who could feasibly sign Messi. They consistently contend for the Premier League title and have become regulars in the knockout rounds of the Champions League. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner would presumably enjoy reuniting with former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola as well.
Still, it's hard to see how City—or any other club—can make the numbers work to the point where adding Messi is anything more than a pipe dream.