Lionel Messi is reportedly set to leave Paris Saint-Germain, but where the World Cup winner will play his club soccer next is still unclear. The top two options for the 35-year-old Argentina superstar appear to be taking a massive deal worth over 400 million Euros to rejoin longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the Saudi Pro League, or return to the longtime home he unwillingly left in 2021 — FC Barcelona.
The La Liga powerhouse’s fortunes have turned after a long rut in which the team dealt with major financial issues that forced the departure of Messi, the club legend who spent 21 years at Barcelona in some capacity. On Sunday, Barcelona clinched its first La Liga title since 2019, also the first under former star midfielder turned promising manager Xavi Hernandez and the first without Messi on the club’s roster since 1999.
The club has a current stockpile of dynamic young talent combined with shrewd veteran transfer additions and a goalkeeper in Marc-Andre ter Stegen who is having one of the most spotless seasons in European soccer. And yet in the celebrations of Barcelona’s return to the top of La Liga, fans kept chanting one name over and over again: Messi.
The power brokers within Barcelona have made it no secret they want Messi back as well. In speaking with reporters recently, club president Joan Laporta revealed he has directly communicated with Messi and restored the relationship between player and club.
Laportra also expressed optimism about Barcelona’s chances to bring back the club icon despite the reported massive offer from Saudi club Al Hilal and continuing reported interest from MLS club Inter Miami.
“Al Hilal bid? Barça is Barça. This club can compete with everyone. In Arabia, they are doing a good job and investing. … but I insist, Barça is his home,” Laporta said, via journalist Fabrizio Romano.
“We want Leo. … We will do everything we can to bring Leo Messi back to Barcelona.”
Laporta also confirmed Romano’s reporting that Barcelona needs financial approval from La Liga before formalizing its bid to bring Messi back, and due in part to the club’s still-lingering issues in that area, it will not attempt to get into a bidding war with any Saudi Arabian teams over Messi.
Xavi (who usually goes by his first name), a longtime teammate of Messi as a player, also gave a lengthy answer in support of a Messi return at a February news conference.
“This is his home and the door is always open,” Xavi said then, via ESPN. “[Messi] is a friend and we are in permanent contact. It depends on what he wants for his future and how the club see it. He is the best player in the world and the best ever. He would always fit [the team].”
Xavi’s desire to bring his old teammate back to the club they starred on together is reportedly not just based on sentimentality. According to ESPN, the manager wants to add more creativity to Barcelona’s group of forwards, something Messi became legendary for during his first stint with the club and has continued to display at PSG and in finally leading Argentina to a World Cup win in December.
Reports emerged from France last week that Messi had a verbal agreement to join an unnamed Saudi club. However, those were quickly denied by his father and manager, Jorge Messi, who said no deal had been agreed to.
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