Will Messi rejoin Barcelona? Xavi now including star in squad planning
Xavi Hernández is optimistic that Lionel Messi will re-sign for Barça this summer, as the LaLiga leaders pursue the World Cup winner via three avenues.
Barcelona are hopeful of re-signing Lionel Messi on a free transfer this summer - and their attempts to lure the club legend back to the Camp Nou now go beyond mere statements in the media by his former Blaugrana colleagues.
According to a report in the Catalonia-based sports daily Mundo Deportivo on Friday, Barça are pursuing a Messi return via three avenues.
Firstly, there is contact between club president Joan Laporta and Jorge Messi, the Paris Saint-Germain forward’s father and agent. Secondly, as the Catalan newspaper Diario Ara had previously reported, Laporta’s former brother-in-law, Alejandro Echevarría, is playing a role in Barça’s Messi offensive. And, thirdly, the club are looking to their head coach, Xavi Hernández, to help persuade the 35-year-old to rejoin. Xavi, who played alongside Messi at Barça for over a decade, has an excellent relationship with the Argentina captain.
Xavi eyeing midfield role for Messi
Such is Xavi’s growing optimism that Messi will return to Barça, Mundo Deportivo reports, that the star’s name is now cropping up in squad-planning discussions for next season. Xavi envisions Messi in a creative midfield role. Last summer, the coach wanted to bring in Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva as an extra man in midfield to help Pedri in Barça’s build-up play; now, Messi is being earmarked as that fourth body in the side’s engine room.
This week, the radio station Catalunya Ràdio revealed that Barça players reacted positively when sounded out over a potential Messi return - an indication that he would enjoy a smooth re-integration into the dressing room. Messi would have a close ally in good friend Sergio Busquets, who could be persuaded to stay at the club beyond the summer were he to have the opportunity to work with his former Barça team-mate once more.
What other options does Messi have?
Meanwhile, Messi is also looking at the other options he has on the table. The World Cup winner, whose PSG contract expires in June, has been offered an extension by the Ligue 1 champions. In addition, he has a big-money offer to go to Saudi Arabia, and MLS franchise Inter Miami are out to take him to the United States.
Barça dependent on avoiding UEFA ban
A Barça move, it should be noted, is contingent on the 26-time LaLiga champions avoiding a European suspension from UEFA, after the continent’s governing body opened an investigation into payments the club made to former Spanish referees’ chief José María Enríquez Negreira. What’s more, Barça will need to ensure they have sufficient salary space to accommodate Messi without falling foul of LaLiga’s financial-fair-play rules.