Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has revealed he was hoping La Blaugrana would re-sign Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar this summer.
The South American duo spent four years playing side by side at Camp Nou, though the Brazilian switched to Ligue 1 in 2017, supposedly in part to move out of Messi’s shadow.
During their time together in Catalonia, Messi having hit 196 goals, 91 more than Neymar.
Since joining PSG for €222m, Neymar has collected two league titles and a brace of domestic cups. However, he struggled to settle in France, amid injuries, fallings out and failure in the Champions League.
The forward’s desire to force a summer exit to return to Barcelona became the saga of the summer, but ultimately failed to materialise.
Speaking to Sport about the transfer saga and his thoughts on his former teammate rejoining, Messi said: “I would have loved to have Neymar back. 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.
“But, in the end, it didn’t happen and we have to only think about the squad we have and focus on our goals.”
Reports following the close of the transfer window have suggested that Barcelona’s interest in re-signing Neymar was purely a smokescreen to keep Messi and other key stars happy, with the possibility of a transfer never realistic due to budgetary constraints.
Speaking out whether he thought Barça did all they could to sign Neymar, Messi said: “I don’t know. I didn’t have much information about how the negotiations were going to say whether or not Barcelona did everything possible.
“He was desperate to come back. I don’t know if the club really tried or not. I also understand it’s very difficult to negotiate with PSG after all their previous back and forth issues with Barcelona. Negotiations are never easy.”