Man City plot Lionel Messi transfer pursuit when window opens in January after failed summer swoop

MANCHESTER CITY are ready to go back in for Lionel Messi this January.

City missed out on the Barcelona superstar in the summer when he was forced into staying after a bitter legal row.

But with the Argentine’s relationship with Barca still frosty and the Spanish club desperate for money, City are considering making a move in the upcoming transfer window.

It would be a sure sign of their commitment to boss Pep Guardiola, who is yet to agree a deal to stay at the Etihad beyond next summer.

Messi, 33, is out of contract at the end of the season and his club bosses are resigned to the fact their legendary striker may quit on a free.  

But they need to cut costs drastically, with debts of £437million.

The chance to bring in any fee, possibly less than £50m, for the six-time World Player of the Year is one Barca may find too good to turn down.

Messi, who has scored 640 goals in 741 games for Barca, has struggled to produce his sparkling best this season under new boss Ronald Koeman.

His dip in form followed an amazing public outburst at the club who he claimed were going back on their word to let him leave over the summer, with City waiting in the wings to snap him up.

Messi ultimately lost the power struggle when Barca made it clear they would take legal action to stop him leaving — and since then the relationship between club and player has been cool at best.

City have retained their interest, believing they can lure him to the North West as soon as he is available.

And there is a belief the current situation could see them tempt Barca with an offer in the New Year to finally get his signature.

Crucially, Uefa rules now allow players to swap for a club in the Champions League in the second half of the season, even if he has taken part in the competition for another team in the group stages.

So capturing Messi would be a huge boost to City as Guardiola looks to finally deliver the European title the club and manager himself crave.

The City board are aware there is no concrete commitment Guardiola, 49, will stay on — but they hope landing his former Nou Camp maestro proves they will continue to back him transfer wise.

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