​Barcelona talisman, Lionel Messi has been symbol of the club ever since making his senior first-team debut in 2004 after coming through the famed La Masia academy for whom he signed when he was a young boy.

He is widely expected to retire at the Nou Camp and remain a one-club man, however Sunday Times journalist, Duncan Castles has now made a huge claim, revealing that the 31-year-old once held transfer discussions with Manchester City to use as a leverage during contract negotiations with the Catalan giants.

Speaking on the ​Transfer Window podcast, Castles made the huge claim which eventually led to Messi signing a lifetime contract with the club which runs till 2021.

"[Barcelona’s] wages to revenue are high, but they’ve managed to increase their revenues quite consistently in recent years and they’ve managed to juggle having high wages throughout that period."

"Giving big new contracts to people like Lionel Messi, who held them to ransom by allowing his contract to go down to its final year, holding discussions with Manchester City and basically getting an offer from Manchester City, an open cheque book offer from Manchester City to come to the club."

"He used that as leverage to go to Barcelona and say ‘I will sign a new contract, but these are the terms that you will pay me. Which were a record salary for a player plus a massive signing-on fee and essentially said ‘there is no room for negotiation here. You either give me the money I want, or I go as a free agent at the end of the season to one of your rivals."

"And Barcelona caved on that, which is one of the big reasons why their salaries went up so much in the last year."

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was recently revealed to be the best paid athlete in the world, earning a staggering $127 million in 2018/19.