As soon as Pep Guardiola touched down in Manchester the speculation that Lionel Messi would follow him was completely unsurprising, yet with the Argentine's contractual situation still unclear at Barcelona it is interesting to look at just what demands he is making before signing once more.

Arguably the Blaugrana's greatest ever footballer is in a state of contractual limbo as he has just one season left on a deal which expires in June of 2018.

This is a monumental issue for those in power at the Camp Nou, because at this point the player holds all of the cards in this situation.

Any potential transfer fee immediately decreases in value with clubs acutely aware that the player could perhaps be available as a free agent in just a matter of months.

For some context it is worth remembering that Sir Alex Ferguson's opening offer for the reigning Footballer of the Year in 2012, Robin van Persie, was a mere 14 million euros.

It also hands a player the opportunity to gauge what he is worth and he can make demands of a club to determine just how much his current employers want to keep him around.

For a player of Messi's calibre, it seems bizarre that this situation is playing out in such a public and untidy manner but just what is the delay?

What is the 29-year-old requesting that is causing such a halt in progress with regards to the negotiations?

Many would immediately assume this is a financial issue but that couldn't be further from the truth, because gone are the days when the salaries of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were a constant point of competition.

What the diminutive playmaker wants is something that is perhaps even harder for Los Cules to promise, and to fully comprehend we have to look back to the club's most recent golden period.

Xavi Hernandez was the symbol of Barcelona's golden era under the tutelage of Guardiola with the central midfielder running games from the middle of the pitch for years.

He dictated the tempo creatively and opened up space for others, and he made that wonderful team tick - yet he has never been replaced.

Ivan Rakitic and Andre Gomes are talented technically, but not on anywhere near the same level, and though they often provide far more industrious work, that simply doesn't balance out against the playmaking of the former captain.

Thiago Alcantara appeared the natural heir but impatience got the better of the young Spaniard as he moved to Bavaria to seek pastures new.

With no natural replacement signed or produced, the next step was to hand the baton to Messi and leave him in charge of the team's creativity.

He would be entrusted with bringing everything together in addition to helping Neymar and Luis Suarez acclimatise to their roles in the front three, and this is what has led to the current stalemate.

Messi has been over-relied upon throughout Luis Enrique's tenure and it is believed he is now tired of this dynamic.

It isn't a secret that he is approaching the final years of his career, at least the stage where he is at the peak of his powers, yet like Xavi did before him Messi wants to be involved with a footballing project that is at the very highest level.

Uncertainty remains about Enrique's position as coach although whether or not he stays, or whether Jorge Sampaoli or Thomas Tuchel takes over, would have a minimal impact on Messi.

What he is most concerned about is the midfield, the difference from the current iteration of Barcelona to the team that won six titles in a season and defined a generation of football lies in that area.

The forward wants to know what the club are going to do to address the issue in the summer and he is determined that the hierarchy reinforces so that he is surrounded by the best players in world football.

In the transfer market Manchester City face far fewer obstacles than the Catalan giants and it is no secret that if Messi was to head to the north-west of England a team would then be constructed to his and Guardiola's specifications.

At Barcelona, he doesn't want or need this, his salary isn't a big issue, nor is his coach.

All he wants is to finally be released from the shackles of being the team's security blanket.

Messi signs contract renewal... with Adidas

A lot of Barcelona fans will be eagerly waiting to see whether Lionel Messi renews his contract with the club, but on Friday it was a different deal that was extended - his sponsorship arrangement with Adidas.

The German sportswear company have always represented the Argentine star, and that is set to continue into the future with the new agreement.

"Happy to continue collaborating with Adidas," Messi said. "Here's to many more years together."

As for the other contract renewal, it'll be sometime before a definitive arrangement is reached, something sure to keep cules restless and on the edge of their seats.


El Clasico in Miami?

The possibility of a Barcelona-Real Madrid contest during this summer's International Champions Cup (ICC) is on the table, with the event to be held in Miami.

Though organisers have neither confirmed or denied the fixture, Real Madrid have agreed to play one of their ICC fixtures at the new Hard Rock Stadium in Miami this summer, and it is understood there have been talks of a Super Bowl style event for the fixture, including pre-game and half-time concerts.

The offer, however, is somewhat unlikely to follow through, given the relationship between the two clubs, and it is an idea that has been previously put to both franchises to no effect.

The International Champions Cup has been a summer pre-season tournament for four years, a championship that brings together almost all the greats of Europe, that is disputed in four continents (America, Europe, Asia and Oceania) and allows worldwide fans a chance to see their team across the globe.

Pochettino: Simeone is a superstar

Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino sent some praise his compatriot's way, defending his vision of the game and taking in pride in the amount of courage and passion Diego Simeone gives the sport.

Pochettino knows LaLiga well from his time at Espanyol as both a coach and a player.

"Simeone is a superstar," he said. "He has the emotional intelligence to really reach a footballer.

"His teams play at the limit of what the rulebook allows and they are experts at finding advantages from every small detail.

"I can't believe the Estadio Vicente Calderon booed him this season, it is very unfair but then again Spain is a pretty unfair country."

As for the other coach in charge in the Spanish capital, the Spurs boss was equally impressed.

"I love how calmly he took charge of one of the best teams in the world," Pochettino acknowledged. "His side have shown consistency in the first half of the season."

The Argentine ended by praising Dele Alli, and is expecting big things of him in the future.

"If we are able to help him mature and continue to develop his best qualities, in front of us we have one of the best players of the next 10 years," he concluded.

Ancelotti warns Real Madrid: It won't be easy against Napoli

Although Real Madrid are favourites to progress from their Champions League tie against Napoli, former coach Carlo Ancelotti has suggested their passage will be far from easy.

The Italians have found their best form just in time for their biggest game of the season and will be full of confidence when they face Zinedine Zidane's record-breaking side.

"I can say that playing against Real Madrid is always difficult, but it will not be easy to play against this Napoli side either," Ancelotti said to Corriere dello Sport.

"Napoli don't surprise me.

"I've been following their progress and they've been playing very well.

"They've maintained an extraordinary offensive quality even after the injury of their centre-forward Milik."

The Polish striker may play a few minutes against Genoa with a view to making a full comeback against Real, but Napoli have been doing just fine without him.

"A team that scores seven goals as the away side in the Italian championship has to be very good," he continued.

"It is something that only a great team can do."

Despite such praise, Napoli aren't one of the teams that Ancelotti has picked to go on and win the title.

"This Champions League can be won by seven teams," he noted.

"Real Madrid, Bayern, Barcelona, Juventus, Atletico, Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City.

"There is a lot more balance this season and there is no real favourite."

Di Maria: We want to knock out Barcelona...and I see a final against Real Madrid

For former Real Madrid midfielder Angel Di Maria, Paris Saint-Germain's upcoming Champions League opponents Barcelona are not an invincible monster.

The French champions have met the Catalonian side several times in recent years, but this will be Di Maria's first occasion since his time in Spain's capital.

"There are new players [at PSG] and this is a new stage and an opportunity for us all," Di Maria said as he appeared in buoyant mood ahead of the Champions League fixture.

"It is true that Barcelona are always dangerous and tend to arrive at 100 per cent for this stage of the season, but they have found some games difficult - such as those against Real Madrid and Atletico - and we have the quality to cause them some problems."

In Spain, some journalists have discussed whether Barcelona have an over-reliance on Lionel Messi and Di Maria is quick to defend his compatriot.

"I always say the same thing: that Messi is different to the rest and when he is good, they [his teammates] are good," he said.

"MSN are the best attack in the world, at this time."

With Barcelona currently second in LaLiga, one point behind Real Madrid but two games ahead of their rivals from the capital, some have questioned whether this team is of the same level as last year.

"It is difficult to maintain the same level every year, but I think that Barcelona are still good," Di Maria stated.

"They're fighting in the league, they're in the cup final, and they've reached the knockout round of the Champions League.

"They will be aiming to get to the quarter-finals - like us - and we will try to do better, knowing that a good Barcelona performance could be a disaster [for PSG]."

The 28-year-old continued to rave about Messi, but is confident that Unai Emery and PSG can stop the Barcelona attacker from creating havoc.

"It's difficult [to stop Messi], but if we are at 100 per cent and do what the coach says, we can stop them.

"I think that we have to focus on doing our job; we know what to do - keeping the ball - because Barcelona are not so strong when they don't have the ball."

Since leaving Real Madrid in 2014, Di Maria has often been linked with a move to Barcelona but he was also asked if he would consider a move back to the Bernabeu.

"I don't think so [in regard to returning to Spain], but many things can happen in life.

"I thought that I was going to see my contract through at [Manchester] United and I went after a year, so I don't know what will happen tomorrow."

The January transfer window saw PSG strengthen by bringing in Goncalo Guedes from Benfica and Giovani Lo Celso from Rosario Central, but their marquee move was to sign Julian Draxler from Wolfsburg, a move Di Maria liked.

"I believe that he [Draxler] has come at a great time," he said about his new teammate.

"The club thought that we needed him and I think he has done really well since coming into the team."

Playing in France, many people who do not watch Ligue 1 believe that PSG should be winning the title every year, but the top of the table in 2016/17 has instead shifted between OGC Nice and AS Monaco.

"People are aware that there are other good teams, but PSG has the best players in the league," Di Maria said.

"This year has seen Monaco grow a lot and they are having an impressive year.

"Last year we comfortably won the league and people expected us to do the same, but we will try to win the title again."

With so many superstars in Paris, Di Maria believes that it is easy to compare PSG to Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"Yes [we are comparable] because we have players such as Marco Verratti, who gives the team that added quality; when he does not play, he is missed," said the midfielder.

"Last year's [Champions League] tie against Real Madrid was very tight in Paris, and we played a good game at the Bernabeu.

"Real sometimes have luck on their side where one goal results in them winning the game, but I think we were better than them."

Despite losing at the home of Los Blancos in the group stages during the 2015/16 campaign, that has not deterred Di Maria from wanting to face them in the final.

"Yes, it would be very nice [to face Real Madrid in the final]," he claimed.

"When I got to Paris, I had the feeling that I would be playing Madrid, and I did in the group stages.

"It was nice to return to the Santiago Bernabeu and to see everyone.

"I hope that we can beat Barcelona so that I can head to Madrid for the second time in the Champions League."

When asked about whether it would be in the final, the Argentine saw the humour in the question.

"It would be nice, because it would also mean that we are in the final," he stated while laughing to himself.
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