Pep Guardiola says a club could activate Barcelona star Lionel Messi's €300 million buyout clause -- but sources have told ESPN FC that it will not be Manchester City.
Barcelona announced in July that an agreement was in place for Messi to sign a new four-year deal, but he has still not put pen to paper, and former Blaugrana presidential candidate Agusti Benedito has told ESPN FC he would be surprised if he did so anytime soon.
However, Barca maintain that Messi will sign the extension despite the doubts expressed by ex-club president Joan Laporta and now Benedito, but Neymar's world-record €222m transfer to Paris Saint-Germain has made the possibility of a club paying his buyout clause appear more realistic.
Asked about the prospect of a club triggering the clause after Monday night's 1-1 draw with Everton, City boss Guardiola told a news conference: "I don't know -- someone might if they have the money and want to spend it.
"It might happen, who knows?"
However, despite recent media speculation that City are actively exploring the possibility of a deal, sources told ESPN FC that the Premier League side have no plans to pay the €300m.
Messi's current terms expire in 2018, though, and unless he signs his renewal, he is free to agree a precontract with other clubs from Jan. 1 that would see him move on a free transfer next summer.
Benedito, who will launch a vote of no confidence against Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board at the beginning of September, says that is a far more likely scenario than a club paying the clause before the end of the transfer window.
"It's not impossible [that Messi leaves]," Benedito told ESPN FC. "It might be impossible for him to go for €300m next week, though, because from January he's free [to then move in the summer].
"I am almost convinced that Messi, like all the players at Barca, is seeing the severity of the institutional situation at the club. I think Leo's waiting to see what happens with the vote of no confidence, the signings that are made, how things are going in October, November... He's going to wait and wait.
"And with the way Bartomeu is going, with the team he's building, I think it's really clear that Leo, free, without a clause ... it could be worse than the Neymar case. It would surprise me a lot if Messi signed his deal before the end of September, October...
"Bartomeu said in July that Messi had signed -- but he's still not signed. He is playing with fire. He said it to distract [from other problems], to change public opinion...
"But he's still not been able to get Messi to sign. And if he's still not signed, it's because he's not certain. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but I think it's possible that Messi doesn't sign [the renewal]. It's worrying."
Former Barcelona boss Guardiola has repeatedly insisted that he expects Messi to finish his career at the Camp Nou but would undoubtedly be keen on a reunion if the Argentine were to run his contract down.
However, Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo claimed earlier this summer that the five-time Ballon d'Or winner was close to quitting Barca to be united with Guardiola in England 12 months ago.
City chief executive Ferran Soriano has previously said that he would "open the doors" to Messi at City if he ever decided to leave, but he said in June that he expected the 30-year-old to remain at Barca or finish his career in the United States or China.
ESPN FC's Barcelona correspondent, Sam Marsden, contributed to this report.