Manchester City have taken the best of Barcelona to help them construct a Premier League club which has established itself at the elite of world football.

Chief executive Ferran Soriano united in 2012 and painstakingly constructed the new off the pitch, producing the City Football Group and a portfolio of high clubs around the world. Txiki Begiristain, among the savviest directors of soccer in the sport, soon followed and in 2016 they eventually procured soccer’s most desired coach in Pep Guardiola.

1 big Barca character who has so far escaped their grasp is Lionel Messi, a participant regularly linked to the Etihad Stadium but that was happy to stay at Camp Nou.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has sometimes flirted with the concept of leaving Barca, like in 2014 when that he and his father were charged with tax fraud. But an exit hasn’t been a realistic proposal and City haven’t seriously tried to sign him in the Spanish champions, knowing that he has a special relationship with the club.

“The natural thing is that Messi finishes his athletic career with Barcelona, but when one day he calls us, we will pick up the phone and we will instantly open the door [to him],” Soriano stated in 2016. “But no, we won’t call him.”

Nevertheless, the current fallout with sporting director Eric Abidal has once more caused the possibility of Messi quitting La Liga with City firmly in the front of the queue should that occur. A public row between the prior team-mates has left the club perspiration on Messi’s long-term standing with reports that the Argentinian is fed up of being used as a political pawn.

Guardiola has made no secret he still regards the 32-year-old as the best player in the world and the finest he’s ever worked with. Just last month after Sergio Aguero became the biggest Premier League goalscorer born outside the UK, the City boss was asked if he was the best striker he’s worked with.

The pair spent four decades together at Barca as player and coach, winning four La Liga titles, two Champions Leagues, the Copa del Rey two European Super Cups, two Club World Cups and three Spanish Super Cups.

The City boss hasn’t since given serious consideration to working with Messi once more, as much as he would love to. “He would be useful in the Premier League but I think Barcelona is the ideal place to finish his career,” he stated in 2017 when it was last suggested he could proceed to England with a contract extension still unsigned.

Messi did end up signing that deal, which nonetheless has a clause so he could leave for nothing at the end of the season.

While the absence of a transfer fee would be incredible to the world’s greatest footballer, there isn’t any way that Messi would come on the cheap. His current contract is allegedly worth a web £500,000 a week while he could anticipate an enormous signing-on bonus. Regardless of the enormous costs, the marketing benefits for City could be enormous and would help push them on a different level for negotiating sponsorship deals.

And the advantages on the pitch could be apparent. But there’s so far no suggestion from City that they’ll make any movement. For all of the praise of his former prodigy, Guardiola does not wish to be seen to desperately want the forward so as to win the third Champions League that has eluded him since he left Barca in 2012. And City have moved on in the days when they would throw money in a situation to attempt and get their way, especially with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play investigation rumbling on.

While that remains true, City are conscious that their dream signing will stay a dream.