Lionel Messi: Real Madrid tried to sign Barcelona star in 2013
According to Der Spiegel, Madrid were prepared to meet Messi's €250m release clause before then going on to sign Gareth Bale from Tottenham.
Real Madrid were willing to pay Lionel Messi's €250 million release clause in 2013, according to a report by German magazine Der Spiegel published on Friday.
Madrid turned to Messi before Bale
According to the report, in June 2013 Iñígo Juárez - then the Messi family's lawyer - informed the player's father, Jorge, that Real Madrid were willing to release Messi from his contract at Barcelona.
Los Blancos, who would soon sign Gareth Bale from Tottenham for a world-record fee, would have offered Messi €23 million per year until 2021. Madrid would also have paid Jorge Messi a further €1m.
Florentino Pérez, Messi, and a private jet
The report in Der Spiegel explains the plan that Real Madrid hatched in order to woo the Argentina international: a meeting on a private jet between the player, his lawyer, Florentino Pérez, sporting director Miguel Pardeza, and a Real Madrid lawyer.
Additionally, the report states that Iñígo Juárez assured Jorge Messi that Real Madrid would "put pressure on [Mariano] Rajoy" - the prime minister of Spain - in respect of a tax evasion investigation against Lionel Messi at the time.
Real Madrid have rejected the report as "totally false" when asked by European Investigative Collaborations, an investigative journalism network.