Pep Guardiola sent Lionel Messi a message after he phoned about joining Man City

Lionel Messi discovered during the summer that even the best player in the world only crosses Pep Guardiola once.

Twelve months after reneging on an agreement to quit Barcelona to join Guardiola at Manchester City in 2020, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner signed for Paris St Germain.

Messi had called the City boss personally to assure him that a clause in his contract would allow him to walk away from the Nou Camp for free. But when Barca refused to let him go and Messi backed away from a threat to take the Catalan club to court, Guardiola’s interest was over.

Fast forward a year when it was announced that Barcelona were broke and unable to renew the 34-year-old’s contract – and the City boss was now asking his club to sign Harry Kane and Jack Grealish.

Tottenham ’s captain proved to be beyond the champions.

Pep Guardiola was linked with a Lionel Messi reunion

But it was a statement of intent that Grealish was handed the No 10 shirt after his £100million arrival from Aston Villa made him Britain’s most expensive player.

Messi, like Zlatan Ibrahimovic before him, found out that there is no going back with Guardiola.

His finest moment so far in a PSG shirt was, ironically, when he curled home a sensational goal to seal a 2-0 Champions League win over City in September.

Messi has started more games for Argentina than in Ligue 1 this season.

Mauricio Pochettino has struggled to find a way to balance a team that also includes Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, but PSG have still opened up a considerable gap at the top of the table.

However, they have dropped points in Europe at both Club Brugge and RB Leipzig.

And they trail group A leaders City by a point ahead of the return meeting at the Etihad on Wednesday night.

Guardiola has won three of the last four Premier League titles.

And despite his insistence that maintaining City’s status as the best club in England is his priority, he is driven by a desire to lift the Champions League again. He led Barcelona to two European crowns with Messi at the heart of his team.

And the disappointment of losing last season’s Champions League final to Chelsea is compounded by the knowledge that his team selection gave his critics the chance to remind him that he is yet to succeed in the tournament without the genius the Argentine star brings.

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