Daily Mirror

CITY GET MESSI? NOU WAY

Pep says forget about Leo as Blues begin to search for the new Aguero

- BY JEREMY CROSS

MANCHESTER CITY boss Pep Guardiola admits signing Lionel Messi is nothing more than a pipe dream.

That is probably a good job considerin­g Guardiola has more realistic problems to deal with as he attempts to rebuild his squad for next season.

Guardiola will be forever linked with Messi following the glorious relationsh­ip the pair once shared in their trophylade­n stint at Barcelona.

So it came as no surprise this week when City were linked with signing the Argentine star amid suggestion­s Messi was considerin­g leaving the Nou Camp.

Messi has 18 months of his current deal to run, but this includes a clause allowing him to leave the Spanish giants for nothing this summer.

City are one of the few clubs who can afford Messi, but Guardiola has ruled it out, saying: “He’s playing for Barcelona and he will stay there.

“That’s my wish. I’m not going to talk about players for other clubs, but I think he will finish his career there.”

While City have lacked some genuine stardust this season in their failed pursuit of Liverpool in the Premier League, Messi will be 33 in June and would represent the ultimate luxury, even by City’s indulgent standards.

Guardiola must find a longterm replacemen­t for record scorer Sergio Aguero (below, left, with January Player of the Month award), who will be 32 before the start of next season.

His manager has admitted that finding someone to fill Aguero’s boots would be impossible. But should the Spaniard still be in charge of City next season, then replace Aguero he must.

The likes of Kylian Mbappe (below, right), Harry Kane and Lautaro Martinez have all been on City’s radar and it is becoming a conundrum Guardiola has to solve. In the meantime, he wants supporters to appreciate the talent of Aguero while they still can and he said: “He’s one of the best. Every season he’s there, despite injuries. He’s always at the top, he’s an exceptiona­l player and incredible person.”

Guardiola needs to strengthen an imbalanced defence and will also attempt to talk winger Leroy Sane out of quitting City to return to the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich.

Sane, who is back training with the first-team squad after being sidelined since August with damaged knee ligaments, remains keen to join Bayern after refusing to sign a new and improved contract with City.

He is still a few weeks away from being match fit and the Germany star will not be rushed back too soon.

Guardiola, whose side host West Ham tomorrow, added: “He’s started to train, but is still not there. He needs to recover his tempo, rhythm and confidence and not think about the injury.

“He needs time, but he’ll be there. It’s not like ankle or muscular, but it still needs time.

“He needs weeks, but what’s important is he’s recovered well.

“Then he will come back stronger than before.”

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