Manchester City have been warned off a move for Lionel Messi by Barcelona presidential hopeful Victor Font, with the La Liga giants still confident that they can convince a talismanic presence to stay put.
As things stand, an exit door at Camp Nou still remains ajar.
Messi, who pushed for a move over the summer, is yet to commit to fresh terms in Catalunya.
As his current deal is due to expire in 2021, the mercurial Argentine will be free to discuss pre-contract terms with any of his many suitors from January.
Premier League giants City are said to head that queue, with former Barca boss Guardiola seeing a reunion with Messi mooted.
Font, though, believes a six-time Ballon d’Or winner can be kept in his current surroundings, with Ferran Soriano – CEO at the Etihad Stadium – told to turn his attention elsewhere.
“I already told him (Soriano) to forget about Messi, to look for alternatives to win the Champions League, because Messi will continue with us and we will win the Champions League,” Font told L'Esportiu de Catalunya.
Barcelona worked hard to keep their club captain at Camp Nou during the last window, with the 33-year-old made aware that an exit clause in his contract was no longer valid.
That stance frustrated Messi, with an unfortunate situation doing none of those concerned any favours.
Asked how he viewed a remarkable saga, Font said: “With sadness. We have enjoyed Messi for so many years that we are not aware of what he has been and what he is.
“Getting into a situation where the best player in history, not for lack of love at the club, wants to leave, generates frustration.”
Pressed on whether Messi’s stance can be reversed, Font added: “It is one of the reasons why it is urgent for a new project to come to govern the club.
“We can guarantee you a competitive, winning project, which is what you need. He wants to win and he certainly wants to do it at Barca, because he is Catalan.”
Barcelona are due to hold their next round of presidential elections on January 24, with Font a strong favourite to gain control of a boardroom that Josep Maria Bartomeu has vacated.
Plans are already being drawn up for a new regime, with Font reiterating his desire to bring club legend Xavi back to the club in a managerial capacity – despite Ronald Koeman currently occupying the dugout.
He said: “I know that Messi likes this leadership of Xavi in the whole sports project.
“Beyond the fact that I would have to make him understand that this new project would not lead to the problems he has had in the past, we must also show him that the Barca-Messi association is strategic and must last beyond the day he retires. I think we will convince him.”