United most likely destination for unhappy Messi

Lionel Messi is evidently unsettled at Barcelona, judging by his mixed messages this week – and Manchester United could pounce on the opportunity to sign the mega-star.

Initially he said he was happy at Barca, but then alerted United to his possible availability by casting doubt over his future at the Nou Camp, admitting he is unsure where he will be playing next season.

United are the only English club that could afford to buy the Argentine forward, particularly if Barcelona were to demand his astronomical $250 million buyout fee in one payment, which is likely.

Although free-spending Manchester City would love to sign the 27-year-old maestro, UEFA’s financial fair play rules make it nigh on impossible for them to secure the four-time world player of the year.

That’s not the case at Old Trafford, where United boss Louis van Gaal has been assured there is no limit on the transfer budget. Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, said last summer: “Whether it’s a [world] record or not doesn’t really resonate with us. What resonates is an elite player that the manager wants who is going to be a star for Manchester United.”

Alongside the buyout clause is Messi’s five-year contract, agreed last May, worth $20 million a season. When his salary is factored in, the total cost of any deal for his transfer would be in the region of a massive $350 million.

Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are the only other clubs with the financial muscle to buy him, but they too have to adhere to the financial fair play rules. Anyway, it is unlikely Messi would join Barca’s fiercest rivals.

United’s record $1 billion, 10-year kit deal with Adidas starts next season, which will help funding 
Messi’s purchase.

With Woodward continuing to expand the club’s portfolio of major sponsors and the fan base claimed at 659 million worldwide, United are more than capable of absorbing the cost of signing Messi.

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