Manchester City could start to make inroads in their pursuit of Barcelona star Lionel Messi by agreeing a mega-money deal as early as January, according to reports.
The Argentine was linked with a move to the Etihad this summer after he told the club he wanted to depart.
Messi admitted defeat in his efforts to force through a move to reunite with Pep Guardiola after Barcelona insisted his astronomical £625million release clause was met.
The 33-year-old has just eight months left on his deal at the Nou Camp and as a result can speak to other clubs in the winter transfer window. City could offer a pre-contract to Messi in January ahead of a free transfer in the summer, according to The Telegraph.
The report claims that talks over his Barcelona future are not scheduled until later in the 2020-21 season, meaning City could get in first.
On agreeing to stay at the LaLiga giants in September, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner said: ‘I am going to continue at this club because the president has told me the only way I can leave is if I pay the €700million (£625m) and that is impossible.
‘The only other way was to go to court and I would never take Barcelona to court because I love the club. The president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and in the end he did not keep his word.’
Former club president Josep Bartomeu publicly fell out with Messi but the former resigned from his post last week.
However Barcelona have made a stuttering start to the new campaign – Ronald Koeman’s side are down in 12th place in the league standings after picking up eight points from six matches.
Manchester City’s chief operating officer Omar Berrada admitted last month that City could look to launch another move to bring Messi to the Premier League.