How Manchester City almost signed Lionel Messi by mistake
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The Blaugrana have been blessed by Messi’s presence for so many years.

But things could have turned out so different.

Europe’s top teams have been envious of Barcelona since Lionel Messi broke through and began his ascent to the top of world football. And Manchester City tried their luck with a big offer for him after someone misunderstood what Pairoj Piempongsant, who worked with the club’s owner, said in a meeting.

Manchester City made a €81 million offer for Barcelona hero Lionel Messi because of a misunderstanding, former CEO Garry Cook has revealed. Cook joined the Premier League side in 2008, shortly after Thaksin Shinawatra bought the club, and spent three years there.

“We were in London on a conference call,” Cook told The Athletic. “Pairoj Piempongsant was getting heated. The phone was on the table and he was speaking to Paul Aldridge, who had previously been with West Ham, got himself in a bit of trouble [over Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano’s transfers], and was also part of Thaksin’s world. So picture the scene. There is Paul with his London accent: ‘Pairoj, you got to tell me what we are doing, it is getting out of control’.

“Pairoj was lying on a chaise lounge, getting a massage, and shouting: ‘Yes, yes, yes! Very messy, messy, it’s getting messy’. Something got lost in translation and — on my daughter’s eyesight, this is the truth — that was misheard as ‘we have got to get Messi’. That was the enduring comedy of Manchester City, I suppose. Paul came to me afterwards: ‘Garry, this is getting confusing, I don’t know what we are doing here’. I said: ‘Put the offer in, let’s see what we come up with’.

“Then Dave Richards called me the next day from the Premier League: ‘Garry, have you put in an offer for Lionel Messi? Seventy million pounds? Are you mad?’ He said he had had a call from Barcelona and they wanted to know if it was real. They were saying to Dave that, if it was real, they might have done a deal a few weeks earlier.”

Instead of signing Messi, City ended up setting a new British record transfer when they signed Robinho from Real Madrid.


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