Manchester City are crunching the numbers to work out if they would be able to sign Lionel Messi without breaching Financial Fair Play rules if the Barcelona star becomes available, sources have told ESPN.
City know any deal for Messi is complicated but want to be prepared should the option of bringing him arise. Therefore, they're looking into the costs that would be involved if Barca agree to sell for a reasonable price.
Barca's official stance is that Messi is not for sale and any interested parties will be referred to his €700 million release clause.
However, ESPN revealed last week that there are some members of the board that would be open to selling the Argentina international if he continues to push for an exit and the money is reinvested in rebuilding the team.
Messi is out of contract in 2021 and met with new coach Ronald Koeman last week to discuss his future. Sources confirmed to ESPN that he transmitted doubts about remaining at Camp Nou following the 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich, which came on the back of Champions League exits against Liverpool and AS Roma.
At 33, Messi knows that he doesn't have many years left at the very top level and wants to ensure his final seasons are spent at a club competing for the game's biggest prizes.
In that sense, there are very few clubs capable of offering him what he wants before even broaching the issue of the cost of the transfer and his annual salary.
Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel, speaking after his side's Champions League final defeat to Bayern on Sunday, said Messi would be "welcome" at the French club but added he believes he will "finish his career at Barcelona."
Sources at City have always said the same thing and coach Pep Guardiola has stated on more than one occasion that he hasn't thought about signing Messi because he's convinced he will remain at Barca.
But other sources have told ESPN that City have always followed Messi's situation closely and are seriously looking into the costs involved in the deal given the current panoramic.
City came up short once again in the Champions League this season, losing to Lyon in the last eight, and know that the arrival of Messi would boost their chances of winning a first every European Cup.
Various financial experts consulted by ESPN, though, believe a move for Messi is not viable for any club at the moment given the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on clubs' accounts.
In addition, City's finances are under the microscope more than ever following their recent win over UEFA at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) following accusations of financial doping.
The CAS sided with City, overturning UEFA's two-year ban from European competitions but leaving a €10m fine in place due to the club's refusal to cooperate in UEFA's initial investigation.
City would have to convince Barca to negotiate Messi's exit for a more reasonable price than his €700m clause.
Barca, for now, don't want to name a price as they wait to see if Messi's desire to leave disappears or if he takes it public. He has always said that he and his family are happy in Barcelona, where he's lived for almost 20 years now. However, he's remaining silent since the Bayern humiliation and at 33 could prioritise a new sporting project away from the Catalan city he calls home.
"We'll be sensible and pragmatic about it but we will do what it takes, I think you've seen when it comes to the two acquisitions we have made, Ake and Ferran Torres, we moved quickly," Khaldoon told the club's official media channels.
"There are additional players we will be bringing in and we will stick to the plan, obviously within the realities of the market that we live in today."
If Messi does decide to leave for City, he would link up with one of his best friends, Sergio Aguero, and Guardiola, the coach who helped him win two Champions Leagues in 2009 and 2011.