Neymar and Messi together again? Why PSG's dream deal could become a reality

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It has been over three years since Paris Saint-Germain stunned the football world by acquiring both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the same transfer window.

The Ligue 1 club may remain associated with lavish spending but they haven't made a statement signing since.

In just a few months, though, that could change, with six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi about to become a free agent.

Out of contract next summer, and still apparently disgruntled at Barcelona, despite the departure of president Josep Maria Bartomeu, the Argentine is suddenly a realistic target.

Neymar, certainly, would love to team up with his old Camp Nou colleague, with whom he formed two-thirds of the famous 'MSN' forward line that fired the Blaugrana to a treble in 2015.

Indeed, it was the Brazil ace who sparked speculation over Messi's possible arrival at the Parc des Princes when he told ESPN Argentina after Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League win over Manchester United: “To play with him again is what I want the most, to take advantage of him still playing.

“I want to play with him again, that’s for sure. Next year, we have to do it.”

Neymar joked that Messi might take his place in the team, but he was deadly serious about the prospect of teaming up with his fellow South American once again.

The Selecao star pushed the club to try to sign the attacker during the summer before it became evident that there were too many financial hurdles to clear amid the pandemic.

Lionel Messi Neymar Barcelona GFX

It has been speculated that Neymar might be aware of something still a secret to the general public, given the pair remain such good friends. In reality, though, he was probably only trying to push sporting director Leonardo into re-establishing contact with Messi and his representatives.

Neymar has some leverage in this situation. With his deal up in 2022, PSG are keen to keep him happy in order to tie him down to a long-term contract.

Signing one of the greatest players ever to dribble a ball would be no small price to pay financially, but it is certainly not outside the bounds of possibility for PSG, who could make sacrifices elsewhere in their side in order to create space for Messi on their payroll.

Angel Di Maria's contract will expire in the summer, and though he has been a fine servant to the club, he is not operating on the same footballing plane as his compatriot.

If it came to it, Mbappe could even be one of those allowed to depart.

Real Madrid crave the World Cup winner, while the 21-year-old attacker has long made it known his ambition is to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Cristiano Ronaldo, by starring at the Santiago Bernabeu.

His contract, too, is in a delicate position and with Messi on the market, it could make medium-term sense to cut their losses on the Frenchman.

Of course, there has already been giddy talk in Catalunya of Neymar returning to Camp Nou, but the maths make such an idea impossible.

Lionel Messi Neymar Barcelona GFX

Barcelona have been instructed by the Spanish league to nearly half their wage bill, and Messi alone is set to put a terrific strain on those figures. Throw Neymar and the dizzying salary that he commands into the mix and it appears downright unrealistic.

Although the story is set to rumble for weeks – if not months – it seems improbable that anything will become clearer before Barcelona fill the void left by Bartomeu.

The Catalan club’s election will take place on January 24, with Messi an ally of two of the leading candidates. He remains close to Joan Laporta following the businessman’s previous stint as president, while Victor Font has made no secret of his plan to make Barca icon Xavi – who shared the pitch with Messi for many years – the club's next coach.

Despite these ties, Laporta has admitted that the 33-year-old's situation is precariously poised.

“I think it’s better that he stays,” the former director told Radio Catalunya. “But it won’t be easy in the club’s current situation, which makes it difficult to compete with other very powerful offers.”

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has refused to comment on the speculation linking his club with arguably the greatest player in history, but one can be sure that he is monitoring developments at Camp Nou closely, with interim Barca president Carles Tusquets again stating on Friday that Messi leaving last summer would have been for "the good of the club" from a financial perspective.

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This tug of war threatens to have lasting implications at the very top of the European game. It is one Barca cannot afford to lose either, with the club in the midst of its worst negative spiral since just before Pep Guardiola was appointed coach in 2008.

For PSG, meanwhile, Messi would represent a signing to define a fresh era in the club’s history, four years after the previous cycle started.

At a time when the Parisian club is fighting to stay relevant among Europe’s heavyweights after a difficult start to the season, landing Messi might represent their greatest coup yet.