- Argentine icon left Camp Nou in 2021
- Running down contract in France
- Could return to Catalunya as a free agent
WHAT HAPPENED? It appeared at one stage as though the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was destined to sign a new contract at Paris Saint-Germain, with an offer having been on the table there since the Argentine returned from a triumphant 2022 World Cup campaign. No deal has been done, though, and Messi continues to head towards free agency as a result. There has been talk of interest being shown in the all-time great from MLS and the Middle East, but strong professional ties to Camp Nou mean that a stunning retracing of steps could take the 35-year-old back to Catalunya.
Yuste has said of returning Messi to his roots at Barca, after bidding an emotion farewell to the mercurial South American in 2021: “I participated in the negotiations that sadly weren’t successful. I am still frustrated that Leo couldn’t continue playing for this club. If we talk about the Masia academy and youth players, we are talking about Leo. He arrived here when he was 12 years old. Of course, I would love to have him back. I say this personally. But I think many of our supporters would love that too, for everything he would represent if he came back., not only on a sporting, economic and social level, among other issues, but also because I think that all beautiful stories must have a happy ending. And answering your question, my answer is yes. We are in contact with them (referring to Messi and his father and agent Jorge Messi).”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Several prominent figures in Barcelona, including club president Joan Laporta, have left the door open for Messi to return, with first team coach Xavi hoping to see his former team-mate take in a “Last Dance” at Camp Nou. He has said of welcoming a familiar face back to a spiritual home: “It will depend on many things. We are obviously at the mercy of Financial Fair Play. But I think what it will depend on most is the wishes of Leo. He knows this is his home, that the doors are open, and that we would be delighted to have him.”
Xavi added: “I have seen him grow at the club, I know him, I know the magnitude of him as a footballer. He is exemplary in many aspects. It’s normal that people are excited. It’s a Last Dance like Michael Jordan. I think the best thermometer is Camp Nou to see how Cules are. That thermometer does not fail. The field is full and the people excited, people are excited on the street.”
WHAT NEXT? Messi cemented his standing among the global greats during his previous stint at Barcelona, scoring 672 goals for the club through 778 appearances while also helping them to 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns.