The prospect of Lionel Messi making a romantic return to Barcelona appears to be gaining momentum, with a number of key figures speaking about the likelihood of it happening this summer.
Messi is out of contract at PSG in the summer. It had widely been expected that the 35-year-old would sign an extension after the World Cup but negotiations appear to have stalled since then, prompting louder noise about a move back to Catalonia.
He’s their all-time top appearance-maker and goalscorer and his time at the Camp Nou there is widely regarded as the greatest club career in the history of football. Here are 12 key figures on the possibility of Messi returning to Barcelona.
Let’s start with the man himself.
“I don’t know what I will do after the World Cup,” Messi told reporters last year.
“I am thinking about what is coming. After Qatar, I will have to reassess many things.”
That’s as close as Messi has come to discussing his future on the record. The contract extension at PSG remains unsigned and Messi will soon be free to choose his destination.
It remains to be seen what bearing winning the World Cup with Argentina has on his thinking regarding the final years of his club career.
In February, Messi’s older brother appeared on Twitch with an explosive outburst at Barcelona and how they handled his sibling’s exit.
“I have a Sport [Spanish newspaper] clipping stuck in my house that says, ‘Messi should return to Barcelona,’ and I subtitled it, ‘Hahahaha [sic], we are not going back to Barcelona, and if we do, we are going to do a good cleaning. Among them, kick out Joan Laporta,’” he said.
“People [in Barcelona] did not support him. People should have gone out to do a march or something, let Laporta leave and Messi stay.
“The Spanish are traitors. I tell you because I want it to come out of our guts and not listen to things that are not true.”
Matias Messi later apologised for the comments.
“I met Jorge Messi [his father and agent] yes,” the Barcelona president said in March.
“We talked about the World Cup and a tribute match for Leo. He’s at PSG right now, so I don’t want to speak about whether or not he could return”
That slightly more reserved angle takes a different tone from Laporte’s comments last summer.
“I feel indebted to Leo Messi,” Laporta told reporters during Barcelona’s preseason tour of the United States.
“I’d love the end of his career to be at Barcelona with a standing ovation in every stadium. I think we can make it happen.
“I feel partially responsible for how things ended, and I feel that this is a temporary end and that we will make this dream a reality. At least that is the dream.”
Messi senior has remained tight-lipped on his son’s future, but he did recently take to Instagram to slam ‘fake news’ stories about anything being agreed just yet.
🚨🚨| BREAKING: Jorge Messi (Leo Messi’s father & agent) on Instagram denies the fake news that came out earlier in the French media today. 🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/wTQbYf4jcF
— PSG Report (@PSG_Report) March 17, 2023
“It will depend on many factors,” the Barcelona manager, Messi’s former team-mate, recently told reporters.
“We must see what the Financial Fair Play rules allow us to do.
“There are many things at stake but I think the most important factor will be Leo’s desire to come back here.
“Leo knows this is his home and that our doors are open, and that we will be delighted if he decides to come back to Barca. But it depends on many factors.”
“I have always had the thorn in me that Leo (Messi) could not continue at Barca. Of course I would love him to come back,” said Barcelona’s vice president last week (via Mundo Deportivo).
“We’ve been in contact with Leo Messi’s camp. Leo knows how much we appreciate him and I’d love for him to come back.
“For sure Messi loves Barca and the city, so we hope to find the right conditions to continue his history here.”
“It would be possible financially because if he returned it would be as a free agent,” Barcelona’s economic vice president confirmed last September.
“But it’s a decision which has to be made by the coaching staff and the player. It doesn’t correspond to me [to make those decisions], but it would be viable.”
“Barcelona feel they are in the race to sign Messi,” transfer insider Romano wrote in his latest Caught Offside column.
“There is still no official proposal from the club – a lot will depend on Messi’s relationship with [club president Joan Laporta], as well as how Barcelona can comply with Financial Fair Play rules.
“But for sure, Barcelona are there, while PSG’s proposal remains valid and they are still insisting to extend Messi’s contract. The situation is now open, way more than it was in December when Messi was close to extending his contract with PSG.”
The well-connected French journalist recently wrote in ESPN that Messi is increasingly unlikely to remain in Paris after how the 2022-23 season has gone.
“Sources told ESPN that Messi, 35, is not prepared to reduce his wages and was upset after his name was jeered by a section of the club’s supporters in the previous two home matches,” Laurens wrote.
“ESPN sources added that Messi is leaving all doors open for other teams to make him an offer.
“His father had already discussed the possibility of a Barcelona return, but financially it will be difficult to achieve while the player’s camp is also awaiting a proposition from Inter Miami and Major League Soccer.
“According to sources, Messi is open to playing in the U.S. before his career comes to an end while there remains interest from Saudi Arabia club Al Ittihad.”
“Who wouldn’t be ready for Leo to come back,” the Barcelona utility man said in March.
“As players, we would welcome him back with open arms! He’s having a good season in Paris, now they’re blaming him. We’ll treat him the right way here if he comes.”
“It’s embarrassing to hear whistles from the Parc,” Henry said, speaking on Amazon Prime after his former team-mate was whistled by the PSG fans ahead of a Ligue 1 match against Lyon.
“You can’t whistle one of the best players on the team, who has 13 goals and 13 assists this season.
“Personally, I would like to see him finish his career at Barcelona, in Europe.
“After that, I don’t know what he will do. Because the way he left Barcelona after everything he did… I didn’t really like it.
“For the love of football, he should go back to Barcelona.”
The PSG manager is hopeful the 35-year-old will remain in Paris next season.
“I know that Leo Messi and the board have been in talks,” Galtier said in a recent press conference.
“At the moment I am staying focused on the team and the upcoming matches.
“As for whether Leo Messi will be here next season or not, I have said that it is about desire. I know people are discussing it but Leo Messi is happy in the dressing room.
“He has 18 goals and 17 assists this season. I know there was some criticism about the game against Bayern Munich, but he wasn’t the only one.
“He is able to be decisive, and he has often done so this season. He is among the best assist providers and he scores goals.
“Given his conduct in the dressing room every day, given his age, he still trains every day and is always happy to play and get his teammates playing.
“As for his future, it is too early to know what will happen.”