Messi was never part of Inter’s plan despite Barcelona exit talk, claims Nerazzurri chairman

Lionel Messi, Barcelona, Inter badge
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Steven Zhang, the man who calls the shots at San Siro, says the option of bringing in the six-time Ballon d’Or winner was not explored

Lionel Messi never formed part of Inter’s recruitment plans when the Barcelona superstar appeared destined to leave Camp Nou, claims Nerazzurri chairman Steven Zhang.

On the back of a disappointing finish to the 2019-20 campaign, Messi decided to push his way towards the exits. He aired a desire to secure a switch elsewhere, with the Argentine and his representatives claiming an exit clause could be triggered in his contract.

Barca fought against that and a six-time Ballon d’Or winner later revealed in an exclusive interview with Goal that he will be staying put for the 2020-21 campaign – at the end of which his current deal expires.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, who had been among those to take note of Messi’s transfer wishes, have been forced to shelve any interest for now. Inter, who have been long-standing suitors of the mercurial South American, are also having to accept that no agreement can be reached at this stage.

Zhang claims that was always the stance being taken at San Siro, saying the ambitious Serie A outfit are in no position financially to put themselves in the running for Messi.

“Such an investment cannot be part of our project. At least not right now,” Zhang told Corriere della Sera. “Innovation, planning, constant growth, economic stability are our cornerstones. 

“Following this path, which involves planning in the long term, we will arrive at the desired results and goals, we will bring Inter back to the national and international level.”

Inter are still in the market for fresh faces in the current window, but are aware that they will need to free up funds from sales in order to invest heavily in any new recruits.

Zhang added: “This plan is aimed at a program of constant growth for the company and the team. Football is experiencing a very delicate, turbulent moment at the international level, this attitude of prudence will not only concern this market session but must also be respected in the future.”

Inter have backed demanding coach Antonio Conte in recent windows, allowing them to become Serie A title hopefuls and Europa League finalists, and Zhang has complete faith in the club’s current coaching team – despite talk of change being in the air when the 2019-20 season came to a close.

The Chinese businessman said of Conte: “Everyone at Inter is aiming for victory, this aspiration is part of our mission. Before we talk about work, well I’ve never seen someone who works so hard, with such intensity, as Conte does. This feature unites us. So does the attention to detail. You see, I follow a principle.”

Inter are due to open their 2020-21 Serie A campaign at home against Fiorentina on September 26.