MANCHESTER CITY owner Sheikh Mansour has very deep pockets if the right man becomes available.
Such was the surprise at Barcelona, that they rang the Premier League to find out whether it was genuine or not.
But the last dozen years have proven City are deadly serious about all big players.
Now Liverpool are streaking towards a title City defended last season, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Etihad era was coming to an end.
But they now desire once again to land Messi — as we revealed yesterday.
If Messi’s spat with sporting director and former team-mate Eric Abidal cannot be resolved, then City are not going away without a fight.
Manager Pep Guardiola has spoken of his wish to deliver the Champions League to the Sheikh — and he will want the Premier League crown back from Jurgen Klopp as well.
And if it is not Messi that arrives, parading a light blue shirt, it is sure to be another huge name.
One thing is for sure, there is no way Barca will be doubting this move for their football icon.
Messi turns 33 in June and this could be the last chance for City, or anyone else, to land the legend.
Guardiola knows better than anyone the effect losing Messi could have on Barca.
So he will also be well aware of the impact the Argentinian could have on City.
The feeling among the Etihad hierarchy — who know the Catalan giants so well — is that the Messi situation with Abidal will be resolved.
But at the same time, there is a quiet confidence that if Messi ever did leave Barca then they would be in pole position.
Guardiola was asked this week whether the departure of Messi would hit Barca as hard as Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit has hurt Real Madrid.
He said: “It is inevitable, these players are so important.
“When Messi leaves Barca it will take time to readjust. It is inevitable. They score 40 to 50 goals per season.”
Pep remains a proud Barca fan.
Eight years after ending his spell as boss, with Messi in his team, his passion for the LaLiga giants is strong. He has always made it clear he expects Messi will finish his career at his spiritual home.
Any team in the world would want him and he is showing no signs of slowing down.
At City, there will be a few watching the developments this week with particular interest.
Guardiola was Messi’s coach for four years when they enjoyed unprecedented success, including two Champions League titles.
Then there are former Barca execs Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain who have been so influential in City’s success. They have remained in contact with Messi and his father Jorge since taking positions at the Etihad in 2012.
And do not forget close pal and international team-mate Sergio Aguero, who would love to renew their partnership at club level.
Messi says Aguero has been like a brother to him since they first played together for their country at youth level.
A strong Catalan influence runs through City and Messi would find it a home from home.
Despite a disappointing season, City have enjoyed an amazing run on the domestic front.
Next month they will face Aston Villa at Wembley looking to win a sixth major trophy from the last seven on offer.
Or eight in nine if you count Community Shields, as Pep likes to do.
The Carabao Cup would make it 11 trophies since ending their drought just over nine years ago.
But maintaining that means bringing in the right players on a consistent basis.
And as tantalising a prospect Messi is for the City board, it would still be an eye-watering and epic deal.
Details of Messi’s contract, which runs until summer next year, were published by Football Leaks a couple of years ago.
They claim his basic wage was £60million a year, with another £25m in image rights — a staggering £1.6m a week!
He will also collect a £59m bonus if he remains at the Nou Camp for the length of the contract, meaning he must stay for another 18 months to cash in.
His basic wage alone is about three times what top earners at the Etihad such as Kevin De Bruyne are paid.
The figures are mind-boggling. Not many clubs in world football could afford it.
But City are one of those who can — if they get any hint of encouragement.