Late last month a document outlining a new blueprint for a European Super League appeared – or rather reappeared in a different guise - following the recent abortive attempt that was revealed in October.

It was said these proposals were being discussed by the continent's elite more seriously because of economic shortfalls due to the pandemic and while there was a public rejection of them by FIFA and UEFA, it has become increasingly obvious this particular pig-in-lipstick plan is not going to die any time soon with 20 gluttonous clubs hoping to share revenue in the billions.

One of Europe's worst-affected clubs has been Barcelona. In December, the Catalan superclub announced that payment of players' salaries would be postponed for January and estimates show that E300m has been wiped off their spending power. The club's interim president Carlos Tusquets said that selling Lionel Messi last summer – taking the £56.2m he earns annually off the books – would have helped. The situation is so stark that Tusquets warned that despite this being a presidential campaign year, a time when would-be presidents would normally make gilded promises of galactico signings, no players would be bought unless others were sold. Meanwhile, Tusquets, one of those presidential candidates, has already said he will make no effort to keep the Argentine.

Messi's eventual destination is limited – only Manchester City and Paris St-Germain can realistically afford him and the two hold similar appeal but one has perhaps been wooing a little more than the other to leverage themselves into a position of favouritism. In the French capital, he would work under Mauricio Pochettino, his amiable compatriot who has been fielding questions on a weekly basis about the player. The verbal love letters sent Messi's way by those such as Angel Di Maria, Marco Veratti and Leandro Paredes have been frequent. It is Valentine's weekend after all.

There is no love lost in Spain, however. Speculation about Messi's future has fuelled ill-feeling at the Catalan club who have accused PSG of lacking respect in the lead-up to Tuesday night's Champions League meeting between the sides especially after France Football carried a front page mock-up of the Argentine wearing a PSG kit.

Last week Pochettino refuted the allegation saying: “I think we are talking here about a magazine or a newspaper that has nothing to do with PSG. We must not confuse what was said in France with Paris St-Germain itself.”

The round of 16 fixture is the sort of tie the architects of the proposed new European super league dream about but it has a lingering sense of deja vu about it too – much like the structure of the entire competition. By the time, the quarter-finalists have been decided, Barcelona and PSG will have played out their 12th meeting between each other in the last eight years.

The new super league would propose more of these types of fixtures, yet there seems to be no sense of awareness that rather than killing the golden goose overfamiliarity will mean it dies from sheer boredom.

Barcelona are a much-diminished side and sit in third, well adrift of La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid with a game more played. PSG, meanwhile, are in transition and also sit in third, albeit in a healthier position to make a title push.

After a relatively slow start under Pochettino, they started to click last month, thumping four past Montpellier in a performance that showed tell-tale signs of his influence. Kylian Mbappe, the subject of recent transfer speculation himself with his contract due to expire next summer, was electric and hinted that he might be prepared to stick around for the foreseeable future.

“We are talking with the club,” he told French broadcaster Telefoot. “I am also reflecting on it. If I sign it will be to invest myself long term here. I feel good here. I will soon have a decision. If I extend, it's so that I stay.”

How Barcelona would dearly love to replace Messi with Mbappe but, given their financial straitjacket, that seems unlikely. Real Madrid would be interested suitors, but they, too, are braced for a E300m revenue hit due to Covid. Neymar has similarly been linked with a return to his former club but issues over the lack of a clause in his PSG contract mean the fee that the French club would look for him remains arbitrary. The Brazilian will miss Tuesday's meeting against his old side and is a doubt for next month's second leg after sustaining an adductor injury in a French Cup tie against Caen that set tongues wagging in the French capital. For the past six years, Neymar has either been suspended or injured on the date of his sister Rafaella Santos's birthday – the striker's protestations were vocal and emotive.

It feels as if the presence of Pochettino could be key in this. The head coach had previously said that he would give consideration to allowing Neymar time off for a return to Brazil for his sibling's birthday.

"Today, the new generation like to give their opinions, to be listened to. Discussion must take precedence," said Pochettino. "Nothing is won by imposing things. You have to discuss, negotiate."

Pochettino has the gift of inspiring devotion from his players. In the early days at Spurs, before his methods started to turn stale, the club's biggest names talked enthusiastically about how he had transformed the culture at the club, Hugo Lloris famously saying at one point that “my future is tied to his [Pochettino's]”.

Should Mbappe and Neymar fall under a similar spell and commit it is not hard to imagine Messi relishing the opportunity to play alongside them for one last tilt at another Champions League.

It is the prize that Nasser Al-Khelaifi, PSG's Qatar owner, covets most and surely why he went for Pochettino, who took unfancied Spurs to the final two years ago.

It is worth remembering, too, that Pochettino's predecessor at PSG, Thomas Tuchel, achieved the same feat six months ago but Al-Khelaifi could not look past defeat by Bayern Munich in the final. The German was sacked with PSG in third place, a point off the top, boasting a 75.6% win record – the highest of any coach in the entire history of the French top flight. There will be initial breathing space for Pochettino but the anticipated signing of Messi will send expectations sky-rocketing. 

Tuesday night will be of intrigue just to see Messi's body language, alone. It might just betray the answer to the question that everyone in Paris is asking.