Following the extraordinary revelation that Lionel Messi had made his intention to leave Barcelona clear, Europe’s biggest clubs began working out if it was possible to land the world’s greatest star.
Very quickly it became clear that there are only two clubs that can realistically secure his services this summer. Between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, though, there appears only one likely destination, and a reunion with Pep Guardiola appears more and more inevitable.
But before Messi can join, the Premier League club have to get their own house in order to prepare for the biggest arrival in the history of English football.
On and off the pitch, there are issues to be sorted, and here, Sportsmail takes a look through them, and how City can pave the way for the 33-year-old’s signature.
Lionel Messi could be on course for a sensational move to join Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City
Fitting the side around Messi
Having worked with Lionel Messi early in his career, and essentially setting him on the road to greatness, this should be no great problem for Pep Guardiola.
Ever since the Spaniard left the Nou Camp in 2012, Messi has been vocal about the failings of most of his predecessors, with the Argentine regularly frustrated with his role in a side that has struggled to maintain the European dominance enjoyed during Guardiola’s reign.
Manchester City tend to play in a 4-3-3 formation, one that suits Messi’s game greatly, having been transformed into a false nine by Guardiola in 2009.
With Messi starting in the central attacking role, the likes of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne will have a to adapt their own way of playing, having been used to creating chances alongside a more traditional attacking presence.
In a 4-3-3, there is also the potential for Messi to play on the right-hand side. But why buy the most exciting player on the planet and take the starring role away from him?
Guardiola is largely responsible for making Messi the star he is with his false nine concept
Matching Messi’s wages
There are only a handful of clubs across the globe that could put together a wage packet befitting of Lionel Messi’s talent.
Manchester City are lucky in that they just happen to be one of those clubs who can do just that.
Messi’s wages are £95million per year. Messi’s fixed salary at Barcelona totals £64m (€71m) but bonuses for signing, for staying, and for winning trophies takes the figure well above that.
Just by playing 60 per cent of games until the 2021 date when his contract ends would see Messi earn on average £95m (€106m) a season. But the potential – if he were to win the Treble and win FIFA’s player of the year award – exists to push the final figure over the £110m (€122m) mark.
Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling both have three years left on their current deals
Attempting to match that could cause City some problems, most notably because it dwarfs the income of their current best-paid stars.
City have both Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling yet to sign contract extensions, although both still have three years left on their deals.
If Messi drags this club to the very top, then other stars will be expecting to see the club’s newfound status reflected in their pay, too.
Hand him the captaincy
As things stand, there is no captain of Manchester City.
Vincent Kompany held the position for eight years before leaving the Etihad at the end of the 2018-19 season, leaving Guardiola needing a new skipper.
The Spaniard actually let his players choose the new captain, with David Silva voted in by his team-mates.
With the Spaniard now having left this summer, Guardiola is prepared to do so again. He may hold off on the vote until Messi is through the door.
City are currently captain-less after David Silva left at the end of his contract this summer
…And the No 10 shirt
Messi is synonymous with the No 10. Whether it be Barcelona or Argentina, the 33-year-old has worn it on his back ever since he was handed it by Guardiola in 2008.
At City, the current incumbent is Sergio Aguero, his fellow Argentine and close friend.
The pair are close off the field, and there is no doubt that Aguero would love his compatriot to join him in Manchester.
That would even go as far as him handing over his shirt number – which some fans are convinced he already has.
The City striker removed the number 10 from his Instagram handle earlier this month, a sign some supporters have taken to mean the deal is as good as done.
Sergio Aguero could hand Lionel Messi the No 10 shirt should he arrive at the Etihad
Offload stars to make room
What a signing like Messi does do, is make some regular starters redundant.
Those in the attacking third, such as Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez will see their playing time vastly reduced so long as the Argentine is available.
Reports have suggested that City may even use the likes of Silva and Jesus as makeweights in a deal for Messi – in order to agree a deal and avoid paying the possible £629m buy-out clause.
However, it is understood that City have no intetion of offering these players out to faciliate a move for Messi.
That doesn’t mean to say they won’t be open to offers should stars become disgruntled with minor roles should Messi rock up at the Etihad.
The likes of Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus may find their playing time reduced next term