02 Jun 2023, 11:22

Messi future decision drawing near with Barca return hopes fading

BARCELONA, June 2, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - With Lionel Messi's time at Paris Saint-
Germain drawing to a close, the Argentine forward will soon reveal his future
-- but hopes of a romantic return to Barcelona are fading.

Messi, who turns 36 in June, is Barcelona's all-time record goalscorer and
biggest icon and was forced to wave a tearful goodbye in 2021 at the end of
his contract, with the club unable to afford to keep him.

Coach Xavi Hernandez has been pushing hard for the World Cup winner to come
back, but Messi's camp has told Spanish media no offer from Barcelona has
arrived yet.

"For me there is no doubt that if Messi comes back he will help us on a
footballing level, that's what I've let the president know," Xavi told
Spanish daily Diario Sport.

Barcelona are waiting for La Liga to approve a financial viability plan ahead
of spending in the summer transfer window.

"At the moment it seems difficult for Messi to return to Barca," said La Liga
president Javier Tebas in April.

"Barca are not like PSG, who have a fuel tap and money for a big salary."

La Liga's financial fair play rules currently limit Barcelona to spending 40
percent of any savings made through salary cuts or player sales, because of
the club's losses.

Even if they bring in enough new income to break free of the league's
financial handcuffs, what they can offer Messi would be modest.

By contrast, elsewhere Messi will be paid a king's ransom, into the hundreds
of millions.

A source close to the deal told AFP in May the forward has an agreement to
move to the Saudi Arabian league, joining his former Real Madrid sparring
partner Cristiano Ronaldo in the Gulf state.

- Risks -

Many Barcelona fans and coach Xavi would like Messi to add a much-needed coda
to a story left incomplete by his shock departure.

The forward arrived at Barcelona at 13 years old and departed without a
proper goodbye to supporters, who at that point were still shut out of
stadiums because of the pandemic.

Messi showed by leading Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar that he can
still deliver at the elite level when motivated.

The forward is favourite to win the Ballon d'Or and remains sublime at
breaking down stubborn defences, something Barca have struggled with even on
their way to winning La Liga this season.

His return would be costly in terms of wages but, without a transfer fee,
could still represent good value for a club hungry for short-term success.

"Reclaiming" Messi's legacy is a positive in its own right, ensuring he
finishes his career at the club where he spent two decades.

The romance of a fairytale return and chance to seal his glorious chapter in
the club's history are tempting, but with Barcelona moving forward and
transforming, it could be a mistake for both club and player to turn back to
the past.

Some believe Barca should not direct a significant chunk of their limited
financial resources towards an ageing great when there are clear areas where
the squad needs improvement.

Xavi has said replacing veteran holding midfielder Sergio Busquets, who is
departing, is the key to any success next season.

Barcelona also need a first choice right-back, a back-up for striker Robert
Lewandowski and a left winger.

Some fans are worried a return for Messi may tarnish his brilliant legacy at
Barcelona and hamper the team's progress at the same time.

Messi may consider that in terms of his legacy there is more to lose than
gain by returning to Barcelona.

French champions PSG host Clermont in their final Ligue 1 match of the season
on Saturday, with Messi's future set to take centre-stage after that.

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