Sergio Busquets insists Barcelona are "looking to compete on all fronts" despite club legend Lionel Messi departing.

Messi was expected to sign a new contract but financial complications at Barca left the forward no option but to leave, with Busquets now assuming the captaincy role.

Prior to Sunday's Joan Gamper Trophy clash, the 33-year-old took the opportunity to reassure the Blaugrana faithful who were rocked by the news of Messi's departure on Thursday, with the Argentina international set to join Paris Saint-Germain.

"We'll do it with you [the fans]," Busquets said at the Estadi Johan Cruyff. "We need you more than ever. We need your help, your support, and we're sure you'll give it to us."

Busquets, who led the tackles and interceptions charts at Barca last term while also completing the second most passes, joins an illustrious group of players to have captained the Catalan club.

Carles Puyol, Xavi and Messi all came before the midfielder and Busquets acknowledged he must now "meet the standards" set by those club legends in a role which he is "very proud" to take.

Having made his debut four years after the Argentina captain, the Spain midfielder was also quick to pay tribute to his former team-mate, with whom he enjoyed a 14-year spell with.

"I want to give a special mention to Leo," Busquets continued. "Thank you, Leo, for taking Barca to the very pinnacle; for making history while being the best player in the world, and for beating all the individual and collective records [imaginable].

"We will always be very grateful for everything you have done. We will miss you and we wish you all the best."

While Messi, who netted 672 times in 778 appearances for the Spanish giants, edges closer to joining PSG, Barca begin their LaLiga campaign against Real Sociedad on August 15 as they begin the post-Messi era.

Lionel Messi has officially left Barcelona following Sunday's press conference and farewell.

Paris Saint-Germain have been widely linked with a move for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

The Argentina international admitted that a move to PSG was a possibility but said nothing was confirmed.

TOP STORY - MONDAY PSG MEDICAL FOR MESSI

Messi is scheduled to have a medical with PSG on Monday before he completes his free transfer move from Barcelona, according to L'Equipe.

The Argentina international bid farewell to Barcelona on Sunday and the Parisians appear the frontrunners to sign him.

The report says PSG and Messi have almost agreed to all the final details of the contract, with ESPN claiming he will be unveiled at a special ceremony at the Eiffel Tower this week.

 

ROUND-UP

- Inter are targeting Anthony Martial as they look to replace Romelu Lukaku, who is expected to join Chelsea, reports The Sun. Manchester United are believed to be ready to sell him for £50million. Inter want Martial initially on a season-long loan.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Jose Mourinho's Roma are plotting a move to sign French striker Alexandre Lacazette from Arsenal. The stumbling block may be that Lacazette wants to play Champions League football, which Roma cannot offer this season.

- Arsenal are lining up a move for Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic if they cannot land Tammy Abraham from Chelsea, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. The Serbian scored 21 league goals for Fiorentina last term.

- Arsenal and Newcastle have agreed to a fee of £25m for English midfielder Joe Willock, claims Sky Sports. Willock spent the second half of last season on loan with the Magpies.

- The Sun claims that Southampton are trying to lure Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back to the club on loan from Liverpool.

 

Gerard Pique has put Lionel Messi's imminent departure from Barcelona down to the former board's poor running of the club.

The Catalan giants announced in a shock statement on Thursday that Messi will not be extending his 21-year stay at Camp Nou due to the club's dire financial situation.

Messi, who scored 672 times in 778 appearances for the LaLiga side, is now expected to complete a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite the Argentina international agreeing to take a 50 per cent pay cut, Barcelona were unable to honour the new contract agreed with him due to LaLiga's salary cap limit.

Barca are estimated to be in around €1.2billion of debt, a hangover from the previous Josep Maria Bartomeu regime which spanned from 2014 until 2020 when he was ousted.

Pique has spent the last 13 years playing alongside Messi and believes the situation could have been avoided.

"This has not been one of the best days for us. We have lost the best of all time," Pique said following Barca's 3-0 win over Juventus in Sunday's Joan Gamper Trophy clash at Estadi Johan Cruyff.

"We knew this day would arrive, but the team was still touched, especially those of us who spent many years sharing a dressing room with him.

"The management of recent years has not been the best and that has penalised us."

 

Messi's name was chanted throughout the prestigious friendly with Juve, with goals from Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite and Riqui Puig earning Barca a routine victory.

Ronald Koeman spoke ahead of the game about an exciting future despite the loss of Messi and reiterated after the victory that it is important his side put the saga behind them.

"It is normal that when a player like Messi leaves it will be hard for everyone, but we have to turn the page because we cannot change this situation," he said.

"You have to play well and win, work more. Others can occupy that position and have a leading role. But we will no longer have Leo. We have to turn the page and be hopeful."

Messi's departure could have a knock-on impact for Koeman, with fellow Argentina international Sergio Aguero reportedly looking to leave Camp Nou before kicking a ball.

Aguero was ruled out of Barca's final pre-season outing with a calf problem, but Koeman denied suggestions the striker wants to terminate the contract signed just last month.

"That is not true," Koeman said. "He has signed and is excited. It is a pity that he was injured this morning. 

"We have to wait for his recovery. It happened in training. We know that when he is fit he can contribute a lot."

Among a number of positives on the field for Koeman during pre-season has been the form of new signing Depay, who took just three minutes to open the scoring against Juve.

The Netherlands international has three goals in four matches since arriving on a free transfer from Lyon, emphasising Koeman's point of there being life after Messi.

"Memphis showed again today that he can be very effective," Koeman said. "We know we must score more and the squad must improve.

"The best in the world will be missed, but you have to accept it. We are not living in the past. There is a future for this team.

"This result against Juventus was very good and achieved by playing some good football. We have taken another step and will only get better when other players return."

Barcelona kicked off the post-Lionel Messi era with a 3-0 win over Juventus in Sunday's Joan Gamper Trophy clash at Estadi Johan Cruyff.

Messi gave a tearful farewell to Barca at a news conference on Sunday after it was confirmed this week the forward's 21-year association with the club has come to an end.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner's name was chanted by home supporters throughout the prestige pre-season match with Juve, who included Cristiano Ronaldo in their starting line-up.

Memphis Depay gave Barca the lead after three minutes and Martin Braithwaite added a second before the hour mark as Ronald Koeman's men rounded off pre-season with a win, with Riqui Puig scoring a fine third with the last kick of the contest.

New signings Yusuf Demir and Depay linked up for Barca's early opener, with the latter taking a throughball in his stride and picking his spot past Wojciech Szczesny.

That was Depay's third goal in four games since arriving from Lyon on a free transfer and he nearly had a second soon after when bending a free-kick narrowly over the crossbar.

Ronaldo was kept largely quiet during his 45 minutes on the pitch but did test Neto with a vicious shot in the first half, while Alvaro Morata was twice denied by the Barca keeper.

The hosts had some breathing space 12 minutes into the second period as Braithwaite's header from a Depay corner squirmed through the grasp of substitute keeper Mattia Perin.

Barca added a third goal to their tally in the final seconds through young midfielder Puig's curled effort from 20 yards to give Koeman hope of a bright future without club legend Messi.

Ronald Koeman is excited about what the future holds for Barcelona despite the departure of superstar forward Lionel Messi.

Messi is bringing an end to his 21-year association with Barca as the Catalan giants were unable to honour the new contract agreed with him due to LaLiga's salary cap limit.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner became a free agent on July 1 and confirmed at an emotional news conference on Sunday that joining Paris Saint-Germain "is a possibility".

Barcelona will head into the new campaign without Messi for the first time since 2003-04, but Koeman is remaining upbeat regarding his side's prospects.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's Joan Gamper Trophy match with Juventus at Estadi Johan Cruyff, the Dutchman said: "Despite Messi's farewell, we are excited about this season.

"With the signings made and the youngsters, who are the future of this club, we have a great squad. We are convinced we will provide the fans with many joys this season.

"With some help and sacrifice we will achieve the maximum. We know what it means to be from Barcelona and what this club represents."

 

Messi leaves a huge void for Barca to fill, the Argentina international having scored 672 goals in 778 games for the Catalans in all competitions, as well as providing 265 assists.

That amounts to 937 goal involvements during his Barca career, which began as a 17-year-old in 2004.

Among an array of other achievements and personal honours, Messi is LaLiga's all-time top scorer with 474 goals and is the second-highest scorer ever in Europe's top five leagues behind Cristiano Ronaldo (476).

Sergio Busquets, who takes over the captain's armband permanently following Messi's exit, paid his own tribute to his team-mate of 13 years.

"For me, it is an honour to be the captain of Barca, the best club in the world," he said on the pitch ahead of the Juventus match.

"I have had great examples such as [Carles] Puyol, Xavi, Andres [Iniesta] and Leo. I will try to be up to the task. 

"I want to make a special mention for Leo. Thank you for taking Barca to the top, making history, being the best in the world, breaking all individual and collective records. 

"We will miss you a lot. Eternal thanks, Leo. Now a new season begins, full of emotion, and we will fight for all the objectives together with you [the fans]. We need you more than ever."

Philippe Coutinho is set to make his long-awaited return from injury in Barcelona's Joan Gamper Trophy showdown with Juventus on Sunday.

The Brazilian has been passed fit and could play his first football for Barca of 2021, having undergone two knee surgeries since the turn of the year.

The attacking midfielder last played for the Catalan giants in their 1-1 draw with Eibar at the Camp Nou in December.

Ronald Koeman has also named the likes of Memphis Depay, Antoine Griezmann and Martin Braithwaite in his 21-man party for the club's annual season curtain raiser at Estadi Johan Cruyff.

However, Sergio Aguero and Clement Lenglet are missing for Barca, who begin their LaLiga campaign at home to Real Sociedad on August 15.

Aguero, who arrived from Manchester City on a free transfer, is set to undergo further tests on a right calf injury, while defender Lenglet has a tendon problem in his right knee.

Barca are seeking their ninth successive victory in the Joan Gamper Trophy, which they have won 43 times since the inaugural event in 1966.

Juventus, who launch their Serie A season away at Udinese on August 22, are one of the 11 teams to have denied the Blaugrana.

The Bianconeri prevailed on penalties in the 2005 showpiece.

Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona. The 34-year-old superstar was expected to sign a new contract, but financial restrictions mean his 21-year stint at the club is coming to an end.

Messi, who has been a free agent since the end of June, is now set for pastures new, with Paris Saint-Germain seemingly his destination.

But before potentially linking up with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Sergio Ramos and the rest of Mauricio Pochettino's star-studded squad, Messi held a farewell news conference in Barcelona.

He was in tears as he took to the stage in front of the media, his family, club officials and his Barca team-mates, who all gave the six-time Ballon d'Or winner a standing ovation.

Here are the best quotes from Messi's Barca goodbye.

The opening statement...

"These recent days I've been giving lots of thought to what I could say, and the truth is that I can't think of anything. This is really difficult for me after so many years, being here my entire life, I'm not ready for this and honestly last year with all the nonsense with the burofax I was convinced I knew what I wanted to say but this year is not the same.

On making Barcelona his home...

"My family and I were convinced I wanted to stay here, that's what we all wanted more than anything. We thought we'd be staying here in Barcelona, today I have to say goodbye to all of this. I've been here so many years, my entire life since I was 13. After 21 years I'm leaving with my wife, my three little Catalan-Argentine kids, and I can't tell you we won't come back because this is my home, and I promised my children that.

His final farewell...

"I gave everything for this club for this shirt. I'm so grateful for the care that people have shown me. I've never imagined having to say goodbye because I never thought of it. I never imagined it this way. I imagined it with people in this pitch. I leave this club without seeing the fans for a year and a half. If I'd imagined it I'd imagined it with the Camp Nou full and being able to say goodbye properly."

On his favourite Barca memory...

"It is really difficult to choose just one moment. A lot of things I've lived, good things and bad things. Maybe the time when I made my debut. That was my dream come true and everything that came later was amazing, but I'll always remember that moment that everything started."

Where to next?

"When the press release was published, I had a lot of calls, a lot of clubs that were interested. At the minute, I've not got anything closed but we're talking about a lot of things."

Facing Barca with his next club?

"The people in Barca know me, they know I'm a good player and they know I like competing. If I'm going to come here, then like I did here I'll fight to win everything. The last years of my career I'll finish it in my way, competing and fighting for titles, ending my career on a high."

On doing everything to stay...

"What's clear is that I did everything possible, they couldn't do it because of LaLiga. We did everything we could because I wanted to stay. Last year, I didn't want to stay and I said it. This year, I wanted to stay and I couldn't. Everything was arranged with Laporta and the club, but it wasn't possible in the end and that's all there is to it.  A lot was said and from my part, I wanted to stay as well, but it just couldn't be done because of things to do with LaLiga."

On media speculation...

"I offered to reduce my contract, my salary by 50 per cent and they didn't ask for anything else. The news that I asked for 30 per cent more is a lie. I did everything possible, we did everything possible. A lot of what people are saying is not true and like I said, I did everything."

How will Barca look post-Messi?

"Barcelona is one of the best teams in the world, they have an amazing line-up. A lot of players will come and go, and like [club president] Joan Laporta said, this club is more important than any one person. People will get used to it, at first it will be weird but like everything, people will get used to it. They have great players, a great squad and in the end, it will be easy for them."

Any regrets?

"I would have liked to have won another Champions League. We got to the semi-final [in 2019] and were knocked out by Liverpool. That's football. But I don't regret anything. I tried to give my best, sometimes it works out for the better or worst. I'm of the opinion we could have won more, but I achieved my objectives. It's always nice to win more titles but I'm ending my career here with all these titles."

Lionel Messi says he did everything he could to extend his stay with Barcelona but claimed it was just not possible due to LaLiga rules.

Messi, whose contract expired at the end of last season, was set to sign a new deal at Camp Nou, reportedly agreeing to a 50 per cent wage cut with club president Joan Laporta.

However, the Catalan giants announced on Thursday that they were unable to reach an agreement with the 34-year-old due to "financial and structural obstacles."

An emotional Messi addressed the world at a news conference on Sunday, in front of the media, his family, Barca team-mates and club officials.

"What's clear is that I did everything possible, they couldn't do it because of LaLiga," he said.

"We did everything we could because I wanted to stay.

"Last year, I didn't want to stay and I said it. This year, I wanted to stay and I couldn't.

"Everything was arranged with Laporta and the club, but it wasn't possible in the end and that's all there is to it. 

“A lot was said and from my part, I wanted to stay as well, but it just couldn't be done because of things to do with LaLiga."

The announcement that Messi would leave Barcelona sent shockwaves around the globe, while he has received many messages of support from current and ex-team-mates.

The Blaugrana will prepare for life without him for the first time since his senior debut for the club during the 2004-05 season. 

But the Argentine, who scored a staggering 672 goals in all competitions, says that people will get used to the thought of him no longer strolling the Camp Nou turf.

"Barcelona is one of the best teams in the world, they have an amazing line-up," he added.

"A lot of players will come and go, and like Joan Laporta said, this club is more important than any one person.

"People will get used to it, at first it will be weird but like everything, people will get used to it.

"They have great players, a great squad and in the end, it will be easy for them."

Lionel Messi confirmed he could join Paris Saint-Germain after his reluctant departure from Barcelona.

The 34-year-old Argentine superstar is a free agent after his contract at Camp Nou expired.

Barcelona have said they were unable to extend his deal due to financial constraints, and it means their record scorer, who has made more appearances for the club than any other player, must walk away.

That announcement first came in a club statement on Thursday evening, with sending shockwaves through the game.

He could head straight into the arms of French champions PSG, joining former Barcelona team-mate Neymar amid a squad of superstars at the Parc des Princes.

Asked about possibly joining the Parisians, Messi said in a news conference on Sunday: "That's honestly one possibility, to reach those heights. At the minute I've got nothing confirmed with anybody."

According to Messi, there has been interest from a host of clubs in signing him.

He did not mention any potential suitors, and only the richest clubs in the game are likely to be able to afford to acquire him, given his high wages.

"When the press release was published, I had a lot of calls, a lot of clubs that were interested," Messi said.

"At the minute, I've not got anything closed but we're talking about a lot of things."

Asked about the possibility of facing Barcelona with his next club, he added: "The people in Barca know me, they know I’m a good player and they know I like competing.

"If I'm going to come here, then like I did here I'll fight to win everything. The last years of my career I'll finish it in my way, competing and fighting for titles, ending my career on a high."

Messi said it was a horrifying moment personally when he was told his time was up at Barcelona.

"My blood ran cold because it was really sad, really difficult. Right until now we're still trying to process it all. When I'm going to go home I'm going to still feel pretty bad about the whole thing," Messi said.

"But the important thing is we're still okay, my family and my loved ones. And that I get to keep playing football. I'm sure now it's going to be a bit difficult but we need to move on."

Reports in France have claimed Messi will fly to Paris on Sunday, suggesting PSG will be his likely next club.

After 20 years in Spain, such a move will be a wrench for a player who has made the Catalan region his home.

Messi said: "I've still not quite come to terms with the reality of leaving this club and changing my life completely. Now we're going to change again, it's going to be a difficult change, especially for my family, but I know that we're going to be okay. We need to accept it, take it on and move forward."

Lionel Messi was in tears as he confirmed his departure from Barcelona after 21 years with the club.

Messi was set to sign a new deal with Barca, but is now heading for pastures new – likely Paris Saint-Germain – after the Catalan giants could not afford to fulfill the contract they had agreed.

The 34-year-old took to the stage for a news conference on Sunday, in front of the media, his family, Barca team-mates and club officials.

He was emotional before he even made an opening statement, as he revealed he had never imagined a moment when he would have to leave Camp Nou.

"These recent days I've been giving lots of thought to what I could say, and the truth is that I can't think of anything," said Messi, who subsequently let the tears flow as he received a standing ovation.

"This is really difficult for me after so many years, being here my entire life, I'm not ready for this and honestly last year with all the nonsense with the burofax I was convinced I knew what I wanted to say but this year is not the same.

"My family and I were convinced I wanted to stay here, that's what we all wanted more than anything. We thought we'd be staying here in Barcelona, today I have to say goodbye to all of this.

"We've always made this our home, we're at home and we thought we'd be staying here in Barcelona. The time we've had here in the city and the sport has been amazing but today I have to say goodbye to all of this.

"I've been here so many years, my entire life since I was 13. After 21 years I'm leaving with my wife, my three little Catalan-Argentine kids, and I can't tell you we won't come back because this is my home, and I promised my children that.

"I'm just really grateful for the club, my team-mates all the people by my side. All the people, even though some of them I only met a few times. 

"I want to say to everyone at this house, for the love that I've had to live so many experiences at this club, all of this helped me to grow, helped me to improve and make me into the person I am today.

"I gave everything for this club for this shirt. I'm so grateful for the care that people have shown me. I've never imagined having to say goodbye because I never thought of it.

"I never imagined it this way. I imagined it with people in this pitch. I leave this club without seeing the fans for a year and a half. If I'd imagined it I'd imagined it with the Camp Nou full and being able to say goodbye properly."

Ronald Koeman proclaimed Lionel Messi to be the "best player in the world" after it was confirmed the Barcelona legend will be leaving the club.

Messi enjoyed an outstanding career at Camp Nou, scoring 672 times in 778 appearances, but his time with the LaLiga giants ended abruptly this week due to Barca's dire financial situation.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner was expected to sign a new contract, having become a free agent on July 1, before Thursday's announcement shocked the football world.

Koeman, who managed the forward during the 2020-21 campaign, joined a host of football's big names in paying tribute to Messi.

"Still hard to understand that you will not play for [Barcelona] anymore," the head coach wrote on Instagram. "Thanks for everything you have done for our club. I really enjoyed the full season we worked together.

"I am impressed with your work ethic and desire to win. It makes you the best player in the world. For now, I wish you and your family the best!"

With Messi expected to move to Paris Saint-Germain, Koeman must prepare for life without the four-time Champions League winner.

Memphis Depay and Antoine Griezmann will have incredibly large shoes to fill in the 2021-22 campaign, while Barca players past and present used social media to praise their former team-mate.

Gerard Pique, who won the treble with Messi in his first season back at the Catalan club, posted on Instagram that "nothing will ever be the same again" following the end of an era.

"Now you are leaving, but I know that one day you will come back," the centre-back continued. "There are pending things to do. Have fun, enjoy wherever you go and keep winning as only you know how to do. Here we will miss you. I love you Leo."

Luis Suarez, formerly part of the formidable trio with Messi and Neymar, pipped Barca to the title with Atletico Madrid last term but he too revealed his admiration for the "best player ever".

"I will always be grateful for how you received me since I arrived because of what a great human being you are," Suarez wrote.

"Proud to have shared thousands of wonderful moments at [Barcelona] and to be lucky to have played with you. I sincerely hope that what happens in the future is the best for you and your family. I love you so much."

Despite only playing for two campaigns with Messi, Barca youngster Ansu Fati used his Instagram account to say farewell to his captain.

"All the boys who come to the Masia dream of being able to play with you, I feel lucky to have fulfilled it," Fati posted. "I wanted to thank you these two years for your gestures of affection towards me and for everything I learned.

"[Messi] my family and I will always be eternally grateful, I wish you and yours all the best."

Lionel Messi will appear at a news conference at Camp Nou on Sunday, Barcelona have announced.

The Argentine forward is widely expected to join Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days after Barcelona said they could not afford to retain him.

That means Messi, 34, is likely to share his perspective of the departure that has stunned world football.

His contact expired at the end of June and both parties had agreed fresh terms, only for Barcelona to announce the bombshell news on Thursday that they could not proceed due to "financial and structural obstacles".

The club's all-time record scorer, who has made more appearances for Barcelona than any other player, recently won the Copa America with Argentina.

He landed the Copa del Rey with Barcelona last season, adding to an array of trophies. During his time at Barcelona, the only club of his professional career, Messi has helped the team win 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues, while he has been awarded the Ballon d'Or a record six times.

Barcelona said Messi would address media in the Auditori 1899, a large function room at the stadium, at 12:00 local time on Sunday.

The club added: "On Thursday 5 August, it was announced that the Argentine star will not be staying at FC Barcelona, where he has set club records for appearances, goals and official titles."

There has been no indication of a change in Barcelona's stance, with seemingly little prospect of a U-turn.

Barcelona's announcement of Messi's departure stated it was a move that "both parties deeply regret", with the club citing "Spanish LaLiga regulations on player registration" as preventing them from handing him a new contract.

Like many clubs, Barcelona have been hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, while heavy spending on players in recent seasons has largely not paid off, with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid winning the most recent two LaLiga titles. 

What Messi has to say about the recent chain of events is keenly awaited.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said on Friday: "There was a moment when La Liga insinuated to us that the proposed contract could suffice, but after a technical analysis by its financial commission, they then informed us that wouldn't fully suffice either."

Everyone wants Lionel Messi but few have the resources to sign him.

Paris Saint-Germain appear to be strong favourites to land the Argentina international.

A deal could happen in the coming days.

 

TOP STORY - PSG CLOSE IN ON MESSI

PSG believe they are close to a deal to land Lionel Messi.

ESPN reports PSG have been in contact with Messi's father and agent Jorge "for some time" and are set to offer a three-year contract. 

Sky Sport Italia says the deal is more likely to be for two years with an option to extend it to a third. 

The ESPN report said adding Messi would make it more likely Kylian Mbappe would stay with the club rather than leave when he is out of contract next year, though it would end PSG's pursuit of Paul Pogba, partly due to FFP concerns.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are set to pay about £95million for Romelu Lukaku as Inter prefer a cash-only deal, the Daily Mail reports. Calciomercato says the Blues offered Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso in a swap deal but the Nerazzurri were not interested. 

- Inter are looking within Serie A to replace their outgoing striker, Sky Italia says, with Atalanta's Duvan Zapata and Roma's Edin Dzeko their preferred options.

- Barcelona are trying to come to an agreement with Lille on midfielder Renato Sanches, Le10 Sport reports. 

- Rafa Mir is set for a move from Wolves to Atletico Madrid, with Fabrizio Romano reporting personal terms have been agreed. 

- West Ham have offered €14m (£12m) to Marseille for Duje Caleta-Car, L'Equipe reports, saying the Ligue 1 side are holding out for €20m (£17m).

Pep Guardiola insists Lionel Messi is not part of Manchester City's transfer plans after the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's sensational exit from Barcelona.

Messi was widely expected to sign a new deal at Camp Nou this week, to prolong a career-long association with Barca after his previous terms expired in June.

However, the club issued a statement on Thursday stating "financial and structural obstacles" – relating to both the Blaugrana's parlous financial state and LaLiga's strict economic controls – prevented Messi from signing a contract to which he had already agreed.

City were widely understood to be Messi's preferred destination when he attempted to leave Barcelona 12 months ago, but Paris Saint-Germain are viewed as the frontrunners this time around.

That impression was only heightened after Guardiola ruled out a reunion with his former protege, insisting City would proceed with the transfer plans that saw £100million man Jack Grealish become their record signing on Thursday.

"We have spent £40m on Jack Grealish - 100 we pay and 60 we won last year." Guardiola said, in one of several reference to the £60m boost his transfer kitty has received from City selling academy and loan players.

"He'll have the number 10 because we were incredibly convinced with Jack Grealish and were convinced that Leo would continue at Barcelona.

"Right now [signing Messi] is not in our thoughts, absolutely not."

Messi ascended to his place at the top of world football under Guardiola's guidance between 2008 and 2012, winning LaLiga on three occasions and the Champions League twice among a host of honours.

"It was a surprise for everyone, me included. President [Joan] Laporta was clear on the reason why," said Guardiola, who was speaking ahead of Saturday's Community Shield meeting with Leicester City at Wembley.

"They'd both like to continue. When you have €487m losses in one year the decision is made, unfortunately.

"As a supporter I'd love to him to have finished there but the club is not sustainable. What's happened is not good there and that's why they arrived in those terms [of Messi leaving].

"As a fan, incredible gratitude for the most extraordinary player I've ever seen in my life. Much more than for the titles he won for Barcelona, for what he did for me, to help me to become a better manager, to go to Munich and England.

"We won a lot, more than that is the incredible about of emotions and feelings to be in front of the TV watching what he can do with the ball with his mates in one football game. Day by day, game by game he did something unique."

As it stands, Messi's final appearance in a Barcelona shirt will be a 2-1 home loss to Celta Vigo as LaLiga slipped away last season.

Guardiola hopes a more fitting goodbye can be arranged.

"Hopefully one day we can properly have the best farewell game ever, because he deserves it," he added. "His contribution helped to take this club to another level, to dominate the world during a decade."

There were plenty of questions for Joan Laporta as he sought to explain Lionel Messi's Barcelona exit on Friday.

The morning after the night before, the Blaugrana president faced the media to give the club's stance on the failed contract talks that mean their talisman is heading elsewhere.

Laporta spoke for an hour and 20 minutes and covered a wide range of topics relating to Messi, Barca’s finances and the restrictions in place in LaLiga.

Stats Perform brings you 10 key quotes from an exhaustive news conference...

'The decision is over'

It was a blunt answer. Laporta had not come to the news conference to give Barca fans what he described as "false hope".

"The decision is over," he said. "It's done."

'Leo is not happy'

Nobody involved with Barca is happy with the outcome – including Messi himself.

"Leo wanted to stay, so he's not happy. We all wanted him to stay," Laporta explained. "For him, right now, it's a situation in which he has to confront reality. It is a reality that can't be changed. He knows that I wish him the best wherever he goes, him and his family. Barca is his home. He's enlarged this club's trophy list and we'll always be thankful."

'He tried to make it easy for us'

No blame was laid at the forward's door, with Laporta revealing two separate agreements between player and club – neither of which could work within LaLiga's regulations.

"We've been at it for two months and we've gone through different stages," Laporta revealed. "The first agreement was two years that would be paid in five years. Leo was in agreement with that. He was always present in negotiations and tried to make it easy for us. The first offer was two years of salary to be paid in five, and we thought that would be allowed in the regulations of fair play, but the criteria of cash came into play. It's not allowed here where it is in other countries. It's all part of a process.

"LaLiga also had its pressure because there are other clubs that want regulations and rules to be abided by.

"Then we agreed to a five-year contract, which was also accepted by Leo, even though we were all thinking of two more years. We all agreed: two years and, if he wanted more, we could sit and talk about it. We wanted the era post-Messi, the one we start today, to start in two years. Taking into account the circumstances, we've had to bring that forward. We all wanted to enjoy his talent, his magic playing at Barca, but at the moment it can't be. When we did the five-year contract that we thought would be allowed – and I had insinuated that this would be allowed – a technical analysis by the LaLiga commission found that this contract wouldn't be valid within those regulations."

'I said we would do everything'

Laporta had based much of his election campaign around the idea of keeping Messi at the club, but he did not regret this approach.

"I said this several times: I said that we would do everything possible for Messi to stay at Barca within the economical situation of the club," he said. "We reached an agreement with Messi, we just weren't able to formalise it."

'We don't have any margins'

Indeed, Laporta preferred to take aim at predecessor Josep Maria Bartomeu due to the state of the club when he took over.

"We don't have any margin," began Laporta's opening statement. "We knew that when we got to the club, but the numbers that were presented to us after the first audit, and our analysis, those numbers are a lot worse than those exposed initially, which are what we are working with now."

He added: "An investment of that volume with the contract of Messi was risky. We wanted to assume those risks, but when we have realised the real situation at the club after the audit, it means that we would have put the club at great risk."

'They have not given us satisfactory answers'

Bartomeu was not the only individual criticised, though, with Laporta repeatedly highlighting issues with a deal LaLiga have done with CVC Capital Partners, which will see the private equity firm acquire 10 per cent of the league's commercial business for €2.7billion.

LaLiga chief Javier Tebas posted on Twitter during the news conference to query Laporta's suggestion the agreement would impact broadcasting rights.

Informed of the post, Laporta replied: "I will tell you that we do not interpret it that way. In fact, yesterday our senior executives spoke with those who run this operation and they have not given us satisfactory answers. I understand the legal formulas that you articulate, because they are ingenious, but this implies giving up a part of our rights with a horizon of half a century. In addition, I would tell you that the amount set by CVC is much lower than what, for us, the 10 per cent of LaLiga should be valued."

'Those are personal conversations'

Laporta was far more guarded over conversations he might have had with Tebas as LaLiga's best player departs the competition.

"Those are personal conversations," he said. "I can't disclose them."

'The player has had other offers'

Laporta insisted he does not know where Messi will go next, but he suggested there had already been contact from rival clubs.

"During the course of negotiations, we've known that the player has had other offers," he said. "And there was a time limit – both for us, because of LaLiga starting shortly, and for them as well, because he needs some time. As fair play continues to be rigid, the player also needs some time to see what he's going to do and evaluate his situation and look at other options."

Laporta added: "He's the best player in the world and logic takes you to think that he has other very good offers."

'The tribute that Leo Messi deserves'

Messi has been on holiday in Ibiza, while his father flew in for discussions this week, but Barca hope to be able to pay tribute to their legendary number 10 in future.

"The tribute for Leo Messi will be the tribute that Leo Messi wants, whatever he likes, whatever he wants to do," Laporta confirmed. "If it was up to us, we'd pay tribute to Leo Messi every day for what he's done for Barca. With the circumstances we're in right now, in terms of the pandemic, in terms of the economic situation, in terms of the pre-season, that makes it complicated. I hope that one day we can see the tribute that Leo Messi deserves."

'We're starting a new era'

For now, the focus at Camp Nou must be on the new season, with a squad learning to play without their stalwart superstar.

"Everyone was waiting for Leo to go to the dressing room and start training," Laporta said of the squad. "I had to tell them it's not going to happen. We're starting a new era and it has to be successful. They're the protagonists of that. They have to make us proud and they need to prove that we can win without players of the talent of Leo Messi, who's the most talented player in the world."

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