Pep Guardiola has opened the door to Manchester City making a sensational move for Lionel Messi if the Argentina superstar ever quits Barcelona.

City are confident they would be at the front of the queue for Messi in the event of him leaving his spiritual home at the Nou Camp, and believe Guardiola’s appointment has only strengthened their position.

The former Barca coach suggested on the eve of City’s Champions League clash with his old club on Wednesday night that Messi, 29, could be tempted by a new challenge.

In the case of Leo, I really wish him to play here (at Barcelona) and finish his career here,’ said Guardiola.

‘But maybe he will think, “okay I want to go play somewhere else” because maybe he wants his kids to speak English or live a different experience, like happened to many of us. Maybe it could happen.

‘But if he decides to go and it happens, there would be a list of seven or eight clubs that would want to sign him, and it would be down to him. Messi will decide where to go.’

Guardiola’s revelation came as he denied reports in Spain that he has contacted a number of his old players since taking over at City in the summer.

However, he admitted speaking to goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, indicating the German was his first-choice to replace Joe Hart at the Etihad instead of his Barcelona teammate Claudio Bravo who eventually joined City in a £15.4million deal.

‘If you are talking about this summer, I never called Messi. I never called Neymar, Luis Suarez, (Sergio) Busquets, (Andres) Iniesta, I didn’t call anybody,’ insisted Guardiola.

‘As for Ter Stegen I knew that he wanted to play all the time. We got in touch. He wasn’t happy with his situation. We needed a goalkeeper like Claudio or Ter Stegen.

‘Claudio came and Ter Stegen decided to stay. If I ever called a player playing in any other club it would be in a special situation of not playing, and it would be my right to – but I never called Leo Messi.’

Asked about facing the Argentine, who made a goalscoring return from a groin injury at the weekend, Guardiola added: ‘I’m going to play against Barca first of all, not Messi. But the best player is Leo, of course

‘I’m happy that he recovered from injury. I’m happy to see him back on the pitch. It’s always a great to see him play. I’m glad he’s fit for tomorrow.

‘I have always thought that with great players – Leo, Neymar, Suarez – when they have the ball they are very good. You need to be aggressive, intense, and make them have the ball as little as possible. We should try to avoid that.

‘I don’t know what instructions I can give to the players to control the talent – 90 minutes is a along time. They will have a moment and they are so precise. They don’t need many chances to score a goal. That is the big talent of the strikers at Barcelona.’

The Spaniards have knocked City out of the Champions League on two occasions, and Guardiola admits that Wednesday’s Group C encounter in the Nou Camp will give him a valuable insight into how far his team have progressed in a short time under him.

‘It’s a good test for us to know how is our level against, for me, the best team,’ he said. ‘What I want tomorrow is the points to go through to the next round, but to be ourselves. I need it my team as quickly as possible and tomorrow is a good chance to know our level. We’re just a few months working together, and I’m still getting to know my players.

‘But it’s not a friendly game. We need points and we’re going to try to win them. Tomorrow I would like to go home to Manchester with a good result and be closer to next stage.’

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