Pablo Zabaleta is of the opinion that Manchester City would be “the best place” for Lionel Messi if he decides to take on a Premier League adventure”.
Messi has clearly lost his love for Barcelona.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner made one push for the exits at Camp Nou over the summer after growing disillusioned with life on and off the field in Catalunya.
Barca moved to block his path, leading the 33-year-old to reveal in an exclusive interview with Goal that he will be honouring the final year of his contract.
No extension to that agreement has been agreed as yet, meaning that Messi will be free to speak with interested parties from January.
City, along with Ligue 1 heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain, are said to be jostling for position at the front of a transfer queue, with both boasting the financial muscle to put a stunning deal in place.
Zabaleta believes his fellow countryman would welcome the opportunity to test himself in the Premier League, particularly as there are already a number of familiar faces at the Etihad Stadium.
The former City defender told Stadium Astro: “First of all it is sad to see Messi in that situation.
“I never thought he would be in a final year of his contract at Barcelona. The team is not playing well and seems that he is not enjoying his football, he’s not happy, and we will see what happens with Messi at the end of the season.
“He has a close friend in Sergio [Aguero] at Man City and has worked with Pep [Guardiola] at Barcelona before, so they know each other. Some of the people on the board also know Messi.
“If Messi decides that he wants to leave Barcelona, that he wants to go and play in a different league, in a different country, of course Man City would be one of them.
“I know Leo and he has been at Barcelona for so long. I wish he stays at Barcelona. Pep has said this before. He loves the club and I don’t see him leaving Barcelona. But if he decides to leave, then maybe Man City would be a place for him to go and enjoy. Every player would like to have an experience in the Premier League.”
Zabaleta, who spent nine years at City between 2008 and 2017, added on the message he would send to a former Argentina team-mate: “I would say to him: ‘Manchester is a lovely place to live, it never rains, it’s not cold like in Barcelona!’
“As a football player, maybe he wants to try a different experience. The Premier League is the best in the world and maybe he wants to go and enjoy a few years there.
“Man City would be the best place for him because he knows people there. We will see what happens at the end of the season.
“I would like to see Messi, if he decides to move on to another club, in England as it is a lovely place to play football. I would love to see Messi play in the Premier League. He needs to enjoy football again because at the minute it seems like he is not enjoying it all.”
Barca are refusing to give up hope when it comes to fresh terms for Messi, as they count down to the club’s next presidential election on January 24, but the clock is ticking and it may be that a modern-day great decides in 2021 to sever ties with the only club he has represented at senior level.