Mauricio Pochettino has revealed he came close to taking Lionel Messi under his wing at Espanyol - while remaining silent on rumours linking his fellow Argentine to Paris Saint-Germain.
The Ligue 1 champions are reportedly among the top candidates to land Messi should he decide to leave Barcelona at the end of the 2020-21 season.
Messi has refused to either confirm or deny his departure following last summer's transfer saga, while presidential candidate Joan Laporta hopes that the pair's history from his previous stint at Camp Nou will help convince him to extend his stay at the club he joined at the age of 13.
Pochettino is reluctant to go on record as stating his interest in a transfer, but recalled that were it not for a scintillating pre-season performance from Messi back when he was a teenager the pair might have already worked together at none other than Barca's city rivals.
"Messi to PSG? No comment. When I was at Espanyol or Southampton, my dream was to have the best players at the club and Messi came close to being loaned out to Espanyol," the ex-Tottenham boss explained to El Larguero.
"The deal was well advanced but he delivered a great display at the pre-season Trofeo Gamper and that was the end of that.
"We've met over the years in places such as London or in Italy. We both share the love for Newell's, as we both came through their academy and that is our common bond.
“I'm aware of all that is going on [with Messi]. I've been watching everyone from West Ham to Valladolid and these days you need to keep your eyes on every team.
"I really don't want to talk about Messi as everything then gets blown out of proportion."
The future of Kylian Mbappe is perhaps of more immediate concern at Parc des Princes.
The France attacker has yet to commit to extending his contract, which expires in June 2022, with a move to Real Madrid repeatedly mooted by the media.
“The club are working on retaining the best and he has a huge future ahead of him," Pochettino said of his charge.
"What coach wouldn't want to work with Mbappe?
“[Mbappe and Neymar] have both welcomed me and are open to a new footballing proposition and I can only thank them for the warm welcome”.