According to a story from The Guardian's Daniel Taylor, the Manchester-based outfit actually made a £30m bid for the player in 2008. Messi had only just begun his ascent back then, but even at that point in time, with transfer fees still relatively modest, the sum seemed a little low.
Since Pep Guardiola took charge of the Etihad side, the rumours have intensified, despite the player leaving Barcelona for another club in Europe being very unlikely. His close friendship with City striker Sergio Aguero hasn't helped in that regard either.
Apparently, City's former chief executive Garry Cook launched the ambitious offer a decade ago mistakenly, having misunderstood a phone conversation between himself and one of his Abu Dhabi employers.
"Cook’s 83-page blueprint pledged to turn them into 'the Virgin of Asia and the world' with their own line of energy drinks, City-branded Mini Coopers, scooters, telephone cards, designer clothing stores and a chain of City Eating fast-food restaurants," Taylor wrote.
"Those plans never took off and – no apologies for repeating this story – Cook’s greatest moment came early on, discussing transfer targets with the new owners on a crackling telephone line from Abu Dhabi to Manchester.
"A comment about ‘it’s getting messy’ was misheard and Cook immediately fired off a £30m bid to Barcelona.
"Apparently, he heard the instruction, amid all the excitement, as ‘let’s get Messi’."
Of course, Barcelona did not accept the bid. But that hasn't stopped Messi from being linked to the club nearly every summer since then.
Cook has since resigned from his post at City after mistakenly sending an offensive email to the mother of former City player Nedum Onuoha.