BARCELONA legend Lionel Messi believes Manchester City will be “screwed” should their two-year Champions League ban be upheld.
The Premier League champions were rocked last Friday as Uefa hit them with a two-year European ban after being found guilty of seriously misleading the governing body and breaking Financial Fair play rules.
Messi, a four-time Champions League winner with Barca, fears City’s biggest stars could walk out of the club if they can no longer offer European football.
The 32-year-old LaLiga icon told Mundo Deportivo: “It is surprising because nobody thought that such a thing could happen, so powerful.
“Paris (Saint-Germain) paid a fine or I don’t know how it went.
“If in the end the City does not play the Champions League for what it is, with the players, the club and the money it spends it will be weird.
“If City does not enter the Champions League there are many players who may look for an exit or perhaps not.
“The Champions League is very pretty but two years without playing it can be screwed.”
City were handed a £25million fine after the independent Adjudicatory Chamber of the Club Financial Control Body revealed they had broken FFP rules by “overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016”.
They also added the English club had “failed to cooperate in the investigation”.
Etihad chiefs immediately vowed to fight the decision and will launch an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
And despite Messi’s concern players will abandon City, the Argentine’s former manager Pep Guardiola insisted he is going nowhere.
Guardiola is out of contract in 2021 with speculation intensifying that the 49-year-old could leave this summer if the suspension stands.
However, after watching his side defeat West Ham 2-0 on Wednesday, he vowed to be in the City dug-out next season as long as he is not sacked.
Speaking to Sky Sports about the Uefa ban, he said: “It’s not finished. The club believes it’s unfair so we are going to appeal.
“We are going to wait. All we can do is on the pitch and do what we have done the last four years and focus on that until the end of the season.
“I trust 100 per cent completely my club what they have done. They explained to me the reasons why.
“We are going to fight like we have fought every single game and day we are together until the end of the season.
“We are optimistic that at the end the truth will prevail and next season we will be in the Champions League.”