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Laporta: I put Barcelona above Messi & now I want him back

6:38 PM IST 30/07/22
Lionel Messi PSG 2022-23
Laporta defended the decision to let Messi leave but both he and coach Xavi want to arrange a return

Barcelona president Joan Laporta says he wants to bring Lionel Messi back to the club and is confident that the right strategy could see the Argentine end his career at Camp Nou. Messi left the Catalan side last summer in a free transfer because they could not afford to sign him to a new contract.

Laporta, who recently expressed his desire to see the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner return, says he put the interests of the club ahead of Messi's when making the decision not to renew his contract, but he is determined to lure the icon back to La Liga.

What did Laporta say about Messi?

"I did what I had to do in order to put the institution above the best player in our history," Laporta told CBS Sports.

"I have known Messi since he was a kid and I love Leo. I feel in moral debt to Messi. He's the best player in our history and I will do my best in order to ensure he can have the best ending of his career with a Barca shirt on.

"I would like to bring him back. It will not be easy but I think with the correct strategy we could do it. I think Messi has been the most important player in our history.

"During a long period of success he was the leader. He was the one who excited our supporters. We will do our best to have Messi ending his career at Barcelona and being applauded by everyone."

He added: "The end of Leo at Barcelona was not the best. It was a difficult time. We had to take a decision and put the club above the best player in our history.

"But I think we have to work now to have Messi end his career back wearing the shirt of Barcelona being applauded on every field that he plays. We will do our best to give him the ending he deserves."

Could Barcelona really bring back Messi?

Messi will be 36 by the time his contact with Paris Saint-Germain expires, in June 2023.

It would seem highly unlikely that Barca would be able to afford to bring him back before that date, as a transfer fee would be required to release him from his current deal with the Ligue 1 champions.

That said, a return on a free transfer, as much as Messi would command a huge salary, is not out of the equation, with Messi unlikely to retire from football at at the end of the 2022-23 campaign.

Asked if Barca are already in the process of making an offer, Laporta said: "Again, I am telling you this is a wish we have and I hope we can convert it to reality. We have a strategy to get him back to Barcelona. Barca loves Leo, the fans love Leo and I love him, too. I will do my best."

On whether Messi would have to take a pay cut to seal a move back to Camp Nou, Laporta added: "We will see.

"Now is not the best moment to talk about this because he's a PSG player and has one more year on his contract and we must respect this."

What has Xavi said about Messi?

Barca coach Xavi says he would be happy to see the 35-year-old back at Camp Nou, but admits they would have to wait until his contract at PSG ends next summer before they can make a move for him.

"I already said at the time. It is a utopia to focus on Leo. I wish the Messi era had not ended," he said.

"I think he deserves a second chance, a last chance, but that's next year. He has a contract. I would like to. Yes."