Lionel Messi says he would have “loved” for Neymar to return to Barcelona as his arrival would have “increased our chances of achieving our objectives.”
BARCELONA, Spain — Lionel Messi says he is not certain Barcelona did all it could to re-sign Neymar in the off-season.
Messi tells the Spanish daily Sport he “would have loved to see Neymar” back with Barcelona, but he doesn’t “know if Barça did everything possible for his return.” He recognized, though, that “certainly it’s not easy to negotiate” with Paris Saint-Germain.
Messi says “Neymar is one of the best in the world” and his signing also would have helped the Spanish club reach another level regarding its image and its relationship with sponsors.
Messi said in the interview published on Thursday he was always in contact with Neymar and the Brazilian forward “really wanted to come” to Barcelona.
Neymar, joined Paris St-Germain for a world record fee of 222m euros (£200m) in 2017 from Barcelona.
“He was desperate to come back,” Messi told Spanish newspaper Sport. “I don’t know if the club really tried or not.”
Neymar scored 105 goals in 186 games for the Catalan club between 2013-2017, and has 51 goals in 58 games for PSG.
The Brazil international was repeatedly linked with a return to Barcelona during the transfer window, although it has been suggested that neither club was convinced that the other was committed to making a deal.
“I would have loved to have Neymar back,” said Barcelona captain Messi, 32. “I understand those people who are against his return and it’s understandable for what happened with ‘Ney’ and the way that he left.
“But thinking about it on a sporting level, I personally think Neymar is one of the best players in the world and having him in our squad would increase our chances of achieving our objectives.”
Messi denied the Barcelona players asked the club to sign Neymar, adding: “We gave our opinions of whether it’d be good if he came or not but we never said they had to sign him.”
Despite missing out on playing alongside the Brazilian again, Messi said he was “not disappointed”, adding Barcelona have a “spectacular squad and can achieve everything without him.”
The Argentine forward joined Barcelona in 2001 and his current contract expires in June 2021.
“My idea is to stay here for as long as I’m capable of playing at the required level and my body allows it,” he added.
“This is my home. I don’t plan on moving to anywhere else as long as we keep competing and winning.”
Messi said he doesn’t intend to leave Barcelona and wants to keep winning with the club. He said the most important thing for him is “to be part of a winning project.”
Messi is yet to play for Barcelona this season because of a muscle injury.