Manchester City are reportedly plotting to make a pre-contract offer for Barcelona skipper Lionel Messi in January to sign him on a free transfer next summer.

According to a report from The Telegraph, as relayed by The Sun, Premier League heavyweights Manchester City could be set to launch another attempt to try and sign football icon Lionel Messi from Barcelona.

The 33-year-old has spent his entire playing career at Barcelona and is widely regarded as one of the best ever to have played the game. This past summer, though, Messi came close to leaving the Catalans after submitting a transfer request having grown disillusioned over the way the club was being run.

It was believed that the Argentine international had already agreed on personal terms with Manchester City, where he would have reunited with former mentor Pep Guardiola. However, a move failed to materialise as Barcelona stood firm that the only way the club captain could leave was if a club paid his mammoth €700 million release clause.

While Messi ended up staying at Camp Nou, Manchester City are still continuing to monitor his situation as he is in the final year of his current contract with the Blaugrana. The 33-year-old could leave on a free transfer at the end of the current campaign and the Cityzens are hoping to pounce once again.

Will Messi stay at Barcelona beyond the current season? (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Will Messi stay at Barcelona beyond the current season? (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

It is claimed that talks over a new contract with Barcelona will not take place until the later stages of the season. In the meantime, Manchester City could swoop in before then by offering him a pre-contract agreement for a free transfer in the summer as Messi will be able to negotiate with clubs from abroad starting from January.

The new season hasn’t been a smooth-sailing one for Messi and Barcelona. While the Argentine has shown glimpses of his usual brilliance, he has found the going tough on occasion with the team languishing in the 12th place in La Liga after collecting just eight points from six games – their worst start to a league campaign in 18 years.

At the same time, the Catalans are in a bit of a turmoil off the field too, following the resignation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board of directors. But, given the fractured relationship between Messi and Bartomeu, the latter’s departure may actually increase Barcelona’s chances of keeping hold of their talisman beyond the current season.

It remains to be seen whether Messi commits his future to Barcelona or looks for new pastures once his current deal expires.

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