Lionel Messi says he wanted Neymar to return to Barcelona this year, as the Brazilian would have helped the club make a leap forward, and added that his former team-mate was looking forward to joining the league champions again.
Barca spent most of the end of the season negotiating with Paris St Germain to return Neymar to the Camp Nou two years after he left for a world record of 222 million euros (198.77 million pounds), but the Catalans failed to reach an agreement with the champions of Ligue 1.
“The truth is that yes, I would have loved Neymar to come,” said the captain of Barca to the newspaper Sport on Thursday.
“I understand the people who were against it. And it’s normal because of everything that had happened with Ney, how she left and how she left us. It’s normal and logical that there are a lot of people who don’t want him to come back, but thinking about it on a sporting level, for me, Neymar is one of the best in the world,” added the Argentine star.
“Obviously our team would have increased the chances of getting the results we all want. I would have liked it to have come for what it would imply, not only at the sporting level, but also at the club level for what it means at the level of clubs, sponsorship, image, growth. The club would have taken a leap too. But well, it didn’t happen.”
The president of Barca, Josep Maria Bartomeu, said last week that the club did everything possible to sign Neymar, but admitted that he could not meet the price asked by PSG for the forward, who scored 105 goals in four seasons with the Catalans.
“I don’t know what was going on inside the directive. I know what he talked about with Ney, what he told me about how things were going. I really wanted to come,” said Messi, who could not play this season due to an injury in the soleus.
“I also understand that it is very difficult to negotiate with the PSG after all the roundtrips it has with Barcelona. And it’s difficult because it’s Ney, who is one of the best. These negotiations are never easy”.
Messi, Barça’s all-time leading scorer, also said he had no plans to abandon the Catalans at any time, shortly after the club confirmed that his contract contains a clause that allows him to decide at the end of each season if he wants to leave for free.
“Yes, I can say that I want to be in Barcelona as much as I can, to do my whole career because this is my home,” he said.
“I want to be physically well, play and be important and see that there is a winning project.