“It’s useless to try and make a leader out of someone who goes to the bathroom 20 times before a game,” Diego Maradona said Lionel Messi. Photo: Tim Ireland/Xinhua

Manchester City have rubbished claims they made a failed bid to sign Barcelona legend Lionel Messi.

Messi has been linked with City several times since former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola was appointed manager of the Premier League club in 2016.

City chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak was quoted in Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo as saying he once made a lucrative offer for Messi, which would reportedly have paid him more than £1 million per week.

“We asked Guardiola to talk to him, we offered him triple the salary he has at Barcelona, but he never accepted,” Mubarak was quoted as saying.

But City responded by insisting there was no truth to the report.

“We deny the veracity of these quotes,” a City spokesman said.

Argentina forward Messi played under Guardiola for four seasons at Barca, during which time they won 14 titles.

The 31-year-old signed a new contract with Barca in November 2017.

Guardiola won the Premier League and League Cup with City last season.

Meanwhile, Messi “is not a leader,” said Diego Maradona of the current Argentina talisman in an interview in Mexico.

“It’s useless to try and make a leader out of someone who goes to the bathroom 20 times before a game,” Maradona said on Fox Sports.

“Before speaking to the coach and players, he will be on the PlayStation. Then, on the field, he wants to be the leader,” Maradona said as he answered questions in a stumbling voice, sometimes seeming to contradict himself.

“He is the best in the world, along with Cristiano (Ronaldo),” Maradona said. “But he’s not a leader.”

Maradona, who led Argentina to victory in the 1986, said Messi, who was again unable to emulate that feat in Russia this summer, was expected to be “the saviour of the fatherland”.

“Let’s stop making a god out of Messi. Messi is Messi for Barcelona, but playing in an Argentina shirt, he is another Messi.”

Maradona, who is in Mexico coaching second-division Sinaloa, said that if he was Argentina coach, he would “not call on Messi”, before adding “never say never”.

“You have to take the leadership away for him to be the Messi we want him to be,” Maradona said.

Messi, who is 31, has not played for Argentina in three low-key friendlies since a 4-3 loss to eventual champions France in the first knockout round at the World Cup, but has not officially retired from the national team.