It was a battle even the great Lionel Messi was never going to win.
In the power struggle between the Argentine superstar and Barcelona the Catalan giants held all the aces as the worst kept secret in football was confirmed - that Messi is unsellable.
A release clause of £650m, combined with current wages of £1m-a-week, make Messi untouchable when it comes to being lured from the Nou Camp and the place he now calls home.
Not that this seemed to bother Manchester City, who appeared to be at the front of the queue when it seemed like, for a brief moment at least, Messi would be available.
It has been a long held dream of City owner Sheikh Mansour to see Messi strutting his stuff in Manchester. A reunion with Pep Guardiola would have been quite a story.
But the fairytale was just that, a fictional notion of romance that was good while it lasted, however fleeting and brief.
Mansour will be disappointed no doubt. The billionaire is used to getting what he wants, but even in football there are some things money simply cannot buy.
The sighs of disappointment will be audible from Abu Dhabi, but they should be ones of relief and not disappointment.
Messi might be blessed by the footballing gods and is arguably the greatest player in history, but his talent would have come at a staggeringly unrealistic cost considering he is now 33.
In the mind of Sheikh Mansour, luring Messi to the Etihad would have been the ultimate coup. It would have elevated City to another level, helped them win the Champions League and probably persuaded Guardiola to sign a new contract extension.
But landing Messi would also have been the ultimate vanity signing, because he is now past his best and has the current work rate of my 17-year-old son, who huffs and puffs when he's asked to stick the kettle on. Messi proved this during Barca's humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Seeing the great man grace English football would still be quite a privilege for supporters of all top flight teams, but what would it have done to the development and progress of someone like Phil Foden?
Foden is ready to take a step up instead of back, to go forward and justify why clubs invest so much time, effort and money into developing homegrown talent like him in the first place.
To a club like City, Messi is no longer the future, Foden is.
On a list of sentences you never thought you'd read, 'City signing Messi would have been a mistake' has to be right up there at the very top. But it's the truth, whether City bosses choose to accept it or not.
Yet if Sheikh Mansour remains determined to lavish more of his billions on making a statement signing, why doesn't he sanction a deal to get Gareth Bale out of Real Madrid instead?
Bale has just turned 31 and is much cheaper than Messi, but like his Spanish rival, still knows what it takes to win the Champions League having done it four times with Real.
Messi would have enabled City to sell more shirts, but where's the value in this to a club that has always been dripping in cash? If City want to get more bang for their buck, then Bale is the best bet.
No cost cutting in the 'new normal'
Much has changed in the world of football since Covid-19 came along - but then again, some things haven't changed one bit.
At the peak of the pandemic people in the game were falling over themselves to insist the financial implications would be crippling and that clubs would have to cut their cloths accordingly.
We even had leading politicians calling out our top flight stars, demanding they take pay cuts to help in the battle against the crisis.
But less than six months later Chelsea have ploughed through almost £200m on new signings, while Arsenal have handed a £220,000-a-week deal to 32-year-old Willian, despite having to make 55 people redundant.
As mentioned above, City have been exploring the chance to sign Messi and Manchester United have spent £40m on Donny van de Beek, while still pursuing a £100m deal for Jadon Sancho.
The season is about to start again without fans, due to the fact no vaccine has been found and coronavirus is still killing people each and every day.
Life remains different, but some of the elite clubs continue to get on with their business like nothing has happened.
The price of success remains higher than ever and the gap between the haves and the have nots is becoming as worrying as it is damaging.
GOOD WEEK FOR
Azeem Rafiq - The cricketer has taken a brave step in going public with accusations he was the victim of institutionalised racism during his time at Yorkshire.
Frank Lampard - Another week, another signing for the Chelsea boss, who has now added German international Kai Havertz to his ever improving squad.
Stephen Hendry - At the ripe old age of 51, Hendry has decided to return to professional snooker eight years after hanging up his cue. Good for him.
BAD WEEK FOR
Steve Bruce - The Newcastle boss saw his side ship five goals in a pre-season friendly against a mediocre Middlesbrough team. It could be a long season for the Magpies.
Dominic Thiem - The tennis star erupted into a bizarre row with tournament bosses at the US Open after not being allowed to drink straight from his Red Bull can because it is not one of their sponsors.
Alexis Sanchez - The Chilean flop appears to be blaming everyone but himself for the fact his time at Manchester United was so bad. But his pitiful excuses don't add up.