La Liga president Javier Tebas claimed the only way Manchester City could sign Lionel Messi is through ‘financial doping’.
Messi became a free agent on July 1 and although the Argentine is keen to remain at Barcelona, the Catalan club cannot offer him a new deal due to their financial predicament.
Tebas ruled out La Liga relaxing their Financial Fair Play rules to allow the six-time Ballon d’Or winner to stay at the Nou Camp, saying Messi must take a substantial pay cut.
He also warned Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain that their recent financial losses mean they would be unable to match the Argentine’s previous salary.
“He won’t be able to sign [for Barcelona] on the previous conditions, that’s impossible,” said Tebas. “I don’t think any European club would be able to pay that amount.
“Manchester City have lost €270m [during the Covid-19 pandemic] so obviously they wouldn’t even consider signing Messi [on his old salary].
“If they do, it will be the financial doping. I’ve told [Pep] Guardiola this too. I’ve directly said that to him, ‘would you have won as many titles without as much economic doping?’
“When the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) let off Manchester City there was a lot of comments about that. (Jose) Mourinho and all these other coaches said this. If this happens I think it would be absolutely incredible.
“This is the sort of governance where we should establish minutes. This economic doping is what is really damaging football.
“It is not real money that’s involved because it is not generated by the clubs. If the money in the football industry isn’t generated by football, it just causes inflation. And it’s a bad type of inflation.
“Then it just ruins football because the clubs have to put in all this effort which is well above their financial capacity.
“We need to really fight against this and we will continue to do this all the time. This is one of our pending issues in European football and if it’s not solved soon it could lead us to a very complicated financial situation.”
Manchester City declined to comment when contacted by Sky Sports News.
It is not the first time Tebas has taken aim at Manchester City and PSG. In 2017 he also accused them of “financial doping” while last April he called for greater controls within football to check the power of the “state-owned clubs”.
Messi has helped guide Argentina to the Copa America final and on Saturday will play against hosts Brazil hoping to win a first major trophy with his country.
But his club future still needs to be settled with the La Liga season starting again in five weeks’ time.
Tebas said the only way for Barca to keep their captain was to get rid of more players, having recently sold left-back Junior Firpo to Leeds United and USA international Konrad de la Fuente to Marseille.
“If no player leaves, it’s impossible,” he added.
“Currently Football Club Barcelona, like other clubs, have gone over the sport squad limit that was established by the Liga due to the pandemic.
“But in those particular cases when they’ve gone over it we have a regulation, which is called one by four. So we allow them to sign on new players, whenever they reduced the current wage bill.
“The regulation is for each euro that they want to use for sign-ups, they have to save four.”