How Man City will line up with Lionel Messi: Five ways star fits into Pep Guardiola's system amid £623m transfer talk
MANCHESTER CITY could pull off one of the most incredible signings of all time if they land Lionel Messi.
The Barcelona great, 33, is on the verge of an astonishing exit from the club he joined almost 20 years ago.
Messi's dad Jorge met with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Wednesday for showdown talks where he reportedly told the club chief: "My son isn't staying."
But Messi Sr did offer a suggestion there was still a possibility of the Barca captain remaining at the Nou Camp.
He simply replied to reporters: "Yes."
When asked how the meeting with Bartomeu went, he added: "Very good."
However, should Messi Jr get his way and force an exit, the Etihad side are in pole position to land the Argentine – with reports of a £623million offer on the table for him.
The five-year deal would make Messi the highest-paid individual in the history of the sport – equating to £14,200 an hour, £341,000 per day, £2.4m every week and a whopping £10.4m per month.
So should City sign the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, Pep Guardiola will have to work out the best way to fit him into his system… or fit his system around the icon.
And the Spaniard has plenty of star talent already at his disposal…
4-3-3 (Messi out wide)
The most likely option (above) could see a standard back five of Ederson in goal, Kyle Walker, summer-signing Nathan Ake, Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy.
Rodri may sit at the base of the midfield with Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden pushing on and a devastating front three of Messi on the right, Sergio Aguero through the middle and Raheem Sterling on the left.
That would allow Messi to operate in the role he has caused so much damage from over the years, especially since Luis Suarez's arrival at the Nou Camp.
4-3-3 (Messi up front)
A similar option for Guardiola that would allow him to keep his favoured 4-3-3 formation could see Messi played as the central striker – or the false No9 as he mastered under his former boss at Barca.
That would mean Aguero dropped out and Riyad Mahrez takes the right-wing spot while Fernandinho could be brought in for Rodri in midfield.
A slightly rogue option – maybe one for the Carabao Cup – could see City line up in a 4-4-2 formation.
A changed-up defence may give a chance for Joao Cancelo, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi – or Eric Garcia – and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Mahrez and Sterling offer pace on the wings while De Bruyne or Foden and Rodri can operate in midfield together.
That would free up Argentina team-mates Messi and Aguero to start together as a front two causing any centre-back pairing nightmares.
With a return to the regular back four, De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan may get the nod to operate as a two in midfield together.
Even with Leroy Sane sold to Bayern Munich, there are plenty of other options out wide with Bernardo Silva and new-boy Ferran Torres brought into the side.
Aguero's understudy Gabriel Jesus could lead the line and allow Messi to operate in the No10 role pulling the strings with plenty of pace around him.
Should Guardiola want to really shake things up with a back three, he certainly has the tools at his disposal to do so.
There are plenty of options for the three centre-backs, including Fernandinho who slotted in with ease throughout last season.
Walker and Mendy are the perfect wing-backs in the modern game and either Gundogan or Rodri could be the most defensive of the midfielders.
De Bruyne and Messi – just like David Silva for many years – would be pretty unstoppable linking up in between the lines while Sterling could move centrally to partner Aguero up front.
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