‘He will finish his career at Barca’ – Pep dismisses Messi exit rumours

Pep Guardiola poured cold water on the idea of Manchester City signing Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in the close season on Friday, saying he would prefer the Argentine forward to finish his career at the Catalan club.

Messi has been linked with a move away from the Camp Nou at the end of the season after he caused a stir by criticising the club’s sporting director Eric Abidal over who was responsible for the sacking of former coach Ernesto Valverde last month.

In the wake of the bust-up, British and Spanish media reported that Messi has a clause in his contract that allows him to walk away for free in the close season even though his contract runs till 2021, sparking speculation of his departure from the club after 16 seasons.

“He’s a player for Barcelona, he will stay there, that is my wish,” Guardiola, who managed Messi from 2008-2012, told reporters ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match against West Ham United.

“I’m not going to talk about players for another club. I think he’s going to finish his career there, it’s my wish.”

Guardiola also said that City forward Raheem Sterling is a doubt for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Real Madrid later this month due to a hamstring injury.

Sterling was slated to miss Sunday’s match due to the injury but Guardiola now fears he may be out for longer and miss the trip to the Spanish capital for the match on February 26.

“It is a problem,” Guardiola said. “I don’t know if he will be fit for the Madrid game.”

City winger Leroy Sane is still on the road to recovery as he stepped up his comeback from a serious knee injury that required surgery last year, but Guardiola said it would be “weeks” before he was ready to return to action.

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