Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano says the club “would open the doors wide” for Lionel Messi to join, but admits the Argentinian will likely see out his days with Barcelona.

City reportedly sees itself as a front-runner should Messi one day opt to leave Catalonia, particularly with his former manager Pep Guardiola at the Eastlands helm, and the diminutive forward showed his class against the Premier League leader with a hat trick in Wednesday’s Champions League group meeting.

Related – Watch: Messi welcomes Pep back to Camp Nou by netting hat trick

Messi made immediate improvements in Guardiola’s first season in charge of Barcelona in 2008-09, lifting his league scoring record from 10 goals under Frank Rijkaard to 23 strikes and a deluge of individual awards in the following year under the new City boss.

An additional pawn City could use is Messi’s close friendship with compatriot Sergio Aguero.

“Messi is the best player in the world. If one day he wants to come to City, we would open the doors wide for him,” Soriano said, according to Dídac Piferrer from Marca, with translation from ESPN FC.

He added on the recent rumours that City made an approach for Messi in the summer: “We didn’t call him. The natural thing for Messi is to finish his career in Barcelona.”

The reports didn’t just end with Messi. City also tried to tempt Luis Suarez, Neymar, and Sergio Busquets to east Manchester, reports Roger Torello from Mundo Deportivo.

Soriano, who previously served as Barcelona vice-president and general manager, refutes these suggestions, but admits there’s been interest in taking players from the Mediterranean coast to a reinvigorated suburb in northwest England.

“We haven’t made any offers to any Barcelona players,” he continued. “What usually happens is that there are agents that call Barca who say they have an offer from City and after, Barcelona call us to ask if it’s true.

“With Barca we talk often. We have a good relationship with (president Josep Maria) Bartomeu.

“Before the summer we met (with Bartomeu) and we spoke about the players that were of interest to us so that agents didn’t trick us.”

Another player City was interested in was Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the goalkeeper who used to share duties with Claudio Bravo at the Camp Nou. City instead nabbed the latter, with the Chilean making a costly mistake resulting in a red card and his new side subsequently surrendering three further goals to lose 4-0.

Related – Claudio Bravo: Crushing Barca loss was my fault

Messi should be involved in his third consecutive match this weekend since overcoming a groin issue. Barca travels Saturday to an improving Valencia in a La Liga fixture.

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