Champions League winners Chelsea have joined the battle to land free agent Lionel Messi after it was announced the Argentine star will be leaving Barcelona this summer, reports in Spain have claimed.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta confirmed in a press conference on Friday that financial constraints meant the club could not do a new deal with Messi.
READ MORE: ‘No one is above the club’: Barcelona boss Laporta urges distraught fans ‘to confront reality’ as he explains Messi exit
The news has triggered fervent speculation over where the 34-year-old icon will end up next, with most sources tipping French moneymen Paris Saint-Germain and cash-rich English Premier League champions Manchester City as the most likely destinations.
However according to Spanish outlet AS, Chelsea are now in the mix after owner Abramovich supposedly “requested an urgent meeting with the Argentine’s team via an English intermediary.”
According to the report, Chelsea know they would start the race for Messi’s signature behind PSG – where fellow Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino is in the dugout and Messi would be reunited with friend and former teammate Neymar.
However, the London club do have the financial firepower to land Messi through their billionaire Russian owner, and the fact that the Blues won Europe’s biggest club prize last season could make a move more enticing for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
In terms of rival offers for Messi, Premier League rivals City could be hamstrung by their recent record outlay of £100 million ($140 million) to land Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish, while City are also in pursuit of England striker Harry Kane – who would cost them even more than what they handed over for Grealish.
Chelsea have been linked with Messi before and were supposedly ready to pay an astronomical €250 million for the star back in 2014, when Jose Mourinho was manager at Stamford Bridge.
It was perhaps only a matter of time before the Blues would linked with Messi again considering his current availability, and the speculation will rumble on until the Argentine icon puts pen to paper with his new club.
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Meanwhile, a potential Chelsea transfer target perhaps more feasible is Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku.
The striker – who left the Blues in 2017 following an unsuccessful spell – is said to be close to rejoining the club with Chelsea reportedly willing to offer Inter Milan upwards of £100 million (€118 million) to secure his services.