Soccer

Barcelona signing Neymar again will tick a major Lionel Messi contract box

Barcelona: Neymar 'will return' says Shaka Hislop

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If Barcelona want to keep Lionel Messi, they need a strong sporting project. The Argentina international continues to be linked with moves to either Manchester City or PSG ahead of the summer transfer window. Yet a deal for Neymar would tick a major box when it comes to keeping hold of the 33-year-old.

Here we go again.

A few weeks ago a new contract for Neymar at PSG appeared to be a formality, with the Brazil international seemingly close to signing on the dotted line.

However, things have now changed.

Reports in Spain have suggested Neymar is stalling on a new deal at the Parc des Princes and that’s because he’s eager to go back to Barcelona to play with Lionel Messi once again.

When it comes to Messi, the Argentina international’s own future is far from clear.

He wanted to quit Barcelona back in the summer transfer window, only for club president at the time Josep Maria Bartomeu to dig his heels in and prevent the club’s talisman from jumping ship.

And Messi has been coy on his future over the course of the season, merely claiming he’ll wait until the end of the campaign before making up his mind.

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The Argentina international’s big concern is that the Catalan giants, at present, don’t have the tools to win the Champions League again.

It’s been a chastening few years in that competition for the reigning La Liga champions, who haven’t competed in the final since 2015 back when Luis Enrique was in charge.

Roma thumped them in 2018, Liverpool blitzed them the following year, Bayern Munich hit eight past Barcelona last term and, earlier in 2021, they were emphatically beaten by PSG.

So Messi’s concerns are understandable. At present, there’s no chance the Catalan giants will win the prize in the foreseeable future.

Yet signing Neymar could change things.

The 29-year-old has continued to electrify world football since leaving Barcelona behind in 2017, taking Ligue 1 by storm with PSG.

While this season has been problematic, six goals and three assists from 13 matches proves he’d still be worth the investment.

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And if Barcelona were to re-sign Neymar, it would show they’re a big club acting accordingly. Certainly, it would be a sizeable step in the right direction.

Messi has long pined for a reunion with the Brazil international. With no Luis Suarez around, he wants more allies within the dressing room.

And Neymar’s potential return to the Nou Camp could be enough to persuade the Manchester City and PSG transfer target into staying put, rather than jumping ship.

Messi hasn’t hid his admiration for Neymar over the years.

Speaking just last year, the Argentine admitted he was still rooting for a reunion despite the controversial nature of Neymar’s departure nearly four years ago.

Messi said: “Neymar is one of the best in the world and I’d love him to come back.

“He is a very happy person who is always smiling and enjoys himself on and off the pitch. He gave all the players a lift.

“It’s normal for the fans to feel [resentment about his possible return] because of the way he left, and that also bothered me at the time because we tried to do everything possible to try to convince him not to do it.

“At the end of the day, we all want to win. We all want to have the best and that goes for the fans, who want to see good football and success.

“I think Neymar really wants to come back.

“He’s sorry about what he did and last year he tried hard to come back. I think that [apologising] would be the first step he would take to try to make it happen.”

Former Barcelona director Eric Abidal revealed earlier this month he wanted Neymar back – but the rest of the board lobbied for Antoine Griezmann’s arrival instead.

“Ten days before the end of the transfer window, I went to Paris to talk with Leonardo [PSG’s sporting director] and I was with my CEO, and we were talking about Neymar,” he said.

“I think if the CEO goes to Paris Saint-Germain, it’s because we can sign him.

“If we didn’t sign Griezmann before, I think 100 per cent we could have re-signed Neymar because what we needed was a winger and when Neymar was in Barcelona he was amazing.

“This is not about which player is better, it was what I thought was the position we needed at the time.

“The team needed a real winger. The president decided to sign Griezmann.

“One of the arguments against Neymar was that he had a court case against the club, so it’s not easy.

“They said he would have to stop the court process if he wanted to come back. That wasn’t my problem because I was not at the club when that dispute happened. In my view, I could sign the player, but it didn’t happen.”

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