Barcelona’s infatuation with Lionel Messi has been underlined after president Joan Laporta raised the tantalising idea that the Argentina great could return to end his career with the club.
It has been 12 months since Messi left in tears to join Paris Saint-Germain, ending a 21-year association with struggling Barca who could not afford to keep him.
The striker won every trophy available with the Catalan giants and left as the club’s record goalscorer with 672 goals from 778 games. To give some context, Cesar Rodriguez is next on the goalscoring list with 232 goals for Barcelona.
Speaking in New York on Thursday night as Barcelona’s US tour drew to a close, Laporta spoke of the prospect of Messi one day resuming his career with the Blaugrana.
“Leo’s phase did not end as we all wished. It ended very much conditioned by economic problems,” said Laporta. “We owe him a moral debt in that regard. We would like the end of his career to be in a Barca shirt and to be applauded in all the stadiums.”
“This is an aspiration. Nothing is said. I feel co-responsible for this ending. I think it’s a temporary ending, I think we’re going to make this aspiration a reality.”
Barca’s financial situation in August 2021 meant that they were unable to agree new terms that would comply with LaLiga’s salary cap rules.
Messi has another year left on his contract with PSG, which will take him until the age of 36, although that deal also includes an option for a third season in Paris.
Laporta may be pushing the right buttons for those dreaming of Messi’s LaLiga comeback, but whether his ambitions are realistic remains to be seen.
Barcelona have sold some of their future TV rights income to boost their financial resources and allow them to start a signing frenzy ahead of the new LaLiga season. Suddenly they are moving in a positive direction again and Laporta will be looking to make it sustainable.
Messi has been directly involved in 937 goals for Barcelona, with his most prolific season coming in 2011-12 when he scored 73 in all competitions and assisted a further 28.
This is in stark contrast to 11 goals and 14 assists in 34 games during his first season with PSG.
Diminishing returns set in, as would only be expected from a player who reached staggering heights at the peak of his career.
Still, Laporta is determined to have Messi back on board, surely aware of the commercial opportunities it could bring and how such a coup would reflect on his presidency.
The more Laporta says it, the more he will keep his word with a fan base left stunned by the departure of the club’s greatest player.