Pep Guardiola insisted Friday he had no intention of signing Lionel Messi, saying he wants the Barcelona star to see out his career at the Nou Camp.
Manchester City manager Guardiola has been linked repeatedly with a move for the reigning world footballer of the year.
Speculation has intensified because Argentina international Messi’s contract with Barcelona expires at the end of next season, and he has so far declined to agree an extension.
Guardiola knows Messi well, having managed him for four years at the Nou Camp between 2008 and 2012, during which time Barcelona won the Champions League twice and La Liga three times.
However, the City manager believes the forward would be better served by staying at Barcelona, where he has been since the age of 13.
“I told you more than once that Messi will stay at Barcelona and will finish his career at Barcelona,” Guardiola said. “It’s my wish. I wish that he goes from the beginning to the end at Barcelona.”
Reports last weekend suggested City were considering a colossal £200 million ($249 million, 235 million euros) move for Messi, and a contract of £500,000 a week.
Luis Enrique, the current Barcelona manager gave a sharp answer when that speculation was put to him before the Spanish giants’ Champions League win at Celtic on Wednesday. “I don’t know –- I have no idea,” he said.
– Kompany cover –
Guardiola is monitoring the fitness of Messi’s Argentina team-mate Sergio Aguero as he prepares his team for a Premier League visit to Burnley on Saturday.
Aguero suffered a foot problem during Wednesday’s 1-1 Champions League draw against Borussia Moenchengladbach, but it is not thought to be serious.
Guardiola, meanwhile, believes he has enough cover in central defence despite losing captain Vincent Kompany for around six weeks with knee ligament damage.
Kompany suffered the 35th injury of his City career as he was forced to come off during last Saturday’s 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace, raising the possibility of Guardiola entering the transfer market in January to sign another defender.
Guardiola, though, can play midfielder Fernandinho or full-back Bacary Sagna in central defence if necessary, and even has the option to move Yaya Toure there.
Toure, recalled to the City team to face Palace for his first appearance since August after resolving a dispute with the manager, famously played as an emergency centre-back for Guardiola in the 2009 Champions League final, when Barcelona beat Manchester United 2-0 in Rome.
Guardiola said: “Yaya can play in many positions but I think we have other options to play as central defenders.
“What happened with Yaya at Barcelona happened once in the final of the Champions League against Manchester United because we had a lot of problems there. We didn’t have players – and he played amazing.
“Now Yaya is going to play in more offensive terms and can decide the last terms, to score goals, in our build-up in the last third of the pitch.
“We have other options. Fernandinho can play there, Sagna can play there. At Crystal Palace, after one and a half months injured, Bacary played the first game and he played central defender for many minutes. He was awesome. So we have other options to solve that problem.”