Lionel Messi moving to Manchester City has been simulated on Football Manager

FC Barcelona v Club Atletico de Madrid - Supercopa de Espana: Semi Final

Lionel Messi has sensationally been linked with a Manchester City move this summer.

Any suggestions of Messi leaving Barcelona have been previously ridiculed, but his public spat with sporting director Eric Abidal seems to have sparked genuine suspicions that he could depart.

The likes of Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United have been connected with a move and are reportedly running the maths in case Messi actually choose to cut ties.

But the Citizens are most definitely frontrunners, both in the minds of football fans and bookmakers.

Not only do City have the financial brawn to make a move for the Argentine feasible, but reuniting with Pep Guardiola - with whom he enjoyed his best years - would surely pique his interest.

Messi in the Premier League?

And while it goes without saying that Messi leaving Barcelona still seems quite unlikely, you can forgive the footballing world for hypothesising would would happen if it genuinely transpired.

So, in the spirit of that imagination, the Manchester Evening News decided to call upon Football Manager 2020 in a mission to predict how Messi would fare at the Etihad Stadium.

We won't get any closer to answering how Messi would perform in the Premier League than when it's looked more realistic than ever and with all the data at Football Manager's disposal.

Manchester City FC v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League

Messi at Man City simulated

And without further ado, here's what happened when the footballing simulator was left to its own devices for Messi at Manchester City next season:

The premise

In order to catch up with the times, MEN had to simulate through the entire 2019/20 season - making relevant transfer and injury updates en route - before signing Messi on July 1, 2020.

You can check out Messi's full statistics on the game by this point and appreciate just how superb the Argentine remains despite advancing past his 33rd birthday.

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Messi's performance at City

So how did he fare? Messi experienced a slight decline by his dizzying Barcelona standards, but it was still an incredible debut season in the Premier League for him.

Guardiola ensured Messi was a first-team regular, handing him 48 appearances in all competitions, and was rewarded with 18 goals and 10 assists in the process.

Only Sergio Aguero scored more goals for the Citizens; Messi won 38 of the 48 games he featured in and collected 14 Man of the Match awards across the entire campaign.

But most impressive of all is the fact Messi's average match rating of 7.86 was the highest in the Premier League, ousting his teammate Bernardo Silva and Liverpool's Andrew Robertson.

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City best XI in 2020/21

Given his brilliant statistics, it's little surprise that Messi features in Guardiola's strongest XI.

Messi was used most regularly on the right-hand side of an attacking triumvirate with Aguero and Raheem Sterling, while Kevin De Bruyne and Silva provided the ammunition from deep.

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City's performance in 2020/21

It was a great season in general for City, too, as they wrestled back the Premier League title from Liverpool by finishing five points clear of Manchester United with a total of 92.

There was more heartbreak in the Champions League, though, as Chelsea knocked them out on penalties at the semi-final stage despite Messi's electrifying performance.

Strangely, Ederson was one of the players to miss in that short-lived shootout...

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GIVEMESPORT's Kobe Tong says

I think Football Manager 2020's prediction is near enough spot on.

There's no chance Messi would be able to transfer his form from Spain at the click of his fingers, but he would still be the best player in England and the simulation showed exactly that.

Plus, you'd have to back City to win the Premier League if they're signing the greatest player in history and nothing rings truer than the Citizens struggling at the crucial stage in Europe...

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But as much as I'd like to see Messi on English shores, it makes sense for him to work things out at Barcelona and solidify his legacy in the league that has become his playground.

At 32 years old, it seems illogical to tackle arguably the toughest challenge of his career, even if you wouldn't back against him to set the Premier League alight. We can only dream.

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