Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has requested an ‘urgent meeting’ with Lionel Messi’s camp to discuss a possible deal for the iconic forward, according to reports in Spain.
In an earth-shattering statement on Thursday evening, Barcelona announced that Messi, 34, had played his final match for the club after a glittering 21-year spell in Catalonia.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner, widely regarded as the greatest player in history, became a free agent on July 1 and had reached an internal agreement with Barca over a renewal which would have seen him take a 50 per cent pay cut.
But these talks subsequently collapsed, with the Spanish giants blaming the ‘regretful’ situation on ‘financial and structural obstacles’ imposed by La Liga.
Finalising a deal required Barca to financially restructure – which ultimately proved impossible – and the Argentina international will have to find a new club for the first time since turning professional.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have long been frontrunners to capture Messi given their vast wealth and will be on red alert following Barcelona’s bombshell statement.
However, AS suggests Chelsea have attempted to steal a march on their European rivals, with Abramovich asking for talks with the entourage of the six-time Ballon d’Or winner as soon as possible.
It’s claimed Chelsea believe City would struggle to launch a bid for Messi after smashing the British transfer record to land Jack Grealish from Aston Villa earlier this week.
The Champions League winners are also closing in on a deal to re-sign Romelu Lukaku this summer after the Belgian told Inter Milan he wished to return to Stamford Bridge, where he feels he has unfinished business.
Pep Guardiola – who managed Messi from 2008 to 2012 at the Camp Nou – played down City’s chances of signing the veteran attacker but sent his best wishes to the ‘extraordinary’ Argentine.
‘We spent £40m on Jack Grealish. We paid £100m and brought £60m. He will wear the No.10 because we were convinced with Grealish and we were were convinced Leo would continue at Barcelona, so right now he is not in our thoughts,’ the Spaniard told reporters on Friday.
‘I didn’t speak with the player or the president so I don’t know what has happened but as a supporter of the club I would love for him to have finished but today the club needs to be sustainable and what happened in the last year was really not good.
‘As a fan, I have incredible gratitude for the most extraordinary player I have seen in my life, for the titles he helped to Barcelona, to help me personally to help me to go to Munich and then to England.
‘More than that, the incredible amount of feelings and actions in front of the TV and watch what he can do with the ball, with his mates in one football game.
‘Day by day, game by game, every three days he made something unique.’