LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has dismissed Spanish media reports that he tried to sign Lionel Messi from Barcelona last year in a world record deal.
The El Mundo newspaper had reported the Argentine forward was offered a five-year 250 million euro net ($220.16 million pounds) deal, with City also prepared to pay a 250 million release clause.
It said City’s chief executive Ferran Soriano, a former Barcelona general manager, and Messi’s father and agent Jorge discussed a deal at the height of a political crisis in Catalonia over a campaign for independence from Spain.
Guardiola, a former Barcelona player and manager, said on Friday he had not tried to sign Messi at any of the clubs he had managed after leaving Spain.
“When I left Barcelona and I went to Bayern Munich and Manchester City I never, never asked Lionel Messi to come to join Bayern Munich or here when I was manager,” he told reporters.
“I never went to both clubs and said I want this player. Never.
“I know how important is this guy for Barcelona. Myself, I never spoke with the clubs, I never made the first step to say I want this player. Never.
“I said a thousand times I want him to stay at Barcelona.”
Barca’s all-time top scorer signed a new contract last November, seven months before his old deal expired. It runs until June 2021 and now contains a 700 million euro ($843 million) buy-out clause.
El Mundo reported in January that Messi had a clause in it allowing him to leave Barcelona without a transfer fee if Catalonia ceded from Spain and the club did not compete in any of Europe’s top four leagues.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)