Pep Guardiola believes it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a wealthy club could activate Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi's eye-watering release clause and complete a world-record transfer following rather speculative links between the Argentine and Manchester City.

Messi's current contract is due to expire next summer and fears over his long-term future at the Nou Camp have been exacerbated by the fact that he has yet to officially sign the lucrative four-year extension that was first confirmed back in early July and is believed to include a €300m (£274.7m, $353m) buyout option.

Such a supposed delay, although seemingly not too far out of sync with Barcelona's original timeline, led to whispers that City could potentially be preparing to take advantage of the situation as soon as this summer.

Yahoo Sport France first fuelled that speculation over the weekend, while the Daily Record later went as far as to claim that the Citizens had met with Messi's representatives in a Barcelona restaurant to discuss a potential switch to the Premier League.

The landscape at Barcelona has shifted somewhat since that initial contract announcement, with the La Liga giants begrudgingly forced to eventually accept the loss of one third of their vaunted 'MSN' attacking triumvirate after Paris Saint-Germain triggered the €222m release clause in Neymar's contract.

Asked if the same could happen with Messi following City's entertaining 1-1 draw with Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Monday night (21 August), former Barcelona stalwart Guardiola told reporters: "I don't know. Someone might have if they have the money and want to spend it. It might happen."

If Messi did not agree a new deal in Catalonia, then he could theoretically begin talks with potential suitors as early as January and Barcelona would face the staggering prospect of losing the five-time Ballon d'Or winner for nothing at the end of the 2017-18 campaign. Former chief Joan Laporta has also suggested that the removal of current president Josep Maria Bartomeu may also be necessary in order to ensure that he remains at the club.

Barcelona have been quick to allay those concerns, however, with technical secretary Robert Fernandez reiterating that an extension with a player who scored 54 goals across all competitions last term is fully agreed.

"The agreement with Messi is total," he told beIN Sports. "We are just looking for the right time for the signature."

Barcelona look set for a frantic end to the transfer window as they seek to add three more names to their summer haul of Marlon Santos, Gerard Deulofeu, Nelson Semedo and Paulinho. While a high-profile pursuit of Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho now looks to be over after the deadline on a third bid worth £113m came and went, they will be able to sign talented French forward Ousmane Dembele provided they cede to Borussia Dortmund's considerable financial demands.

Ernesto Valverde is keen to further bolster his midfield with the arrival of Jean Michael Seri from Nice, while Los Cules could also move to bring former Real Madrid and Manchester United winger Angel Di Maria back to La Liga.

Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola managed Lionel Messi at Barcelona between 2008-12