La Liga president Javier Tebas says he is “ready” for the exit of Lionel Messi – while criticising Manchester City, a club he believes could sign him.
Messi submitted a transfer request in August at Barcelona – who he joined as a 13-year-old – but backed down after they refused to sanction his release.
The forward had fallen out with Josep Maria Bartomeu, who subsequently resigned as Barca president in October.
Tebas wants Messi to stay in Spain but feels La Liga would cope without him.
He argued that the competition had continued to thrive following Neymar’s 2017 departure from Barcelona to Paris St-Germain, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2018 move from Real Madrid to Juventus.
“We would prefer Messi to stay in La Liga but Ronaldo and Neymar left and we have not noticed any difference,” Tebas said. “We are ready.”
The Argentina international, 33, would be available on a free transfer at the end of this season.
Tebas indicated that Messi’s likeliest Premier League destination, if he went to England, would be Etihad Stadium – although club sources have pointed out that no-one at City has ever spoken about signing Messi.
La Liga’s president has repeatedly criticised City, having previously made numerous allegations about their structure, including accusing them of financial doping, before they were cleared of serious FFP breaches by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in July.
He aimed more criticism at them when he spoke on Tuesday.
Tebas said: “It seems the only club in Premier League that talks about registering Messi is Manchester City, who compete outside the rules. I am not the only one saying this.
“I am not too worried about them. I have criticised what they do so many times. Doing it one more time makes no difference. City is neither affected by Covid or pandemics or anything because they are financed differently and it is impossible to fight against that.”
City opted not to respond to Tebas’ comments, although it is understood they are wrestling with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic – limiting manager Pep Guardiola to a net spend of £31m during the most recent transfer window.