Neymar caused a stir when he said he wants to play with Lionel Messi again next season, moments after helping Paris St-Germain to a 3-1 Champions League win over Manchester United.
“What I want most of all is to play with Messi again, to be able to enjoy him once again on the pitch,” Neymar told ESPN about his former Barcelona team-mate.
“He can play in my place, I have no problem with that! But I want to play with him next year, for sure. We have to do it next season.”
That revelation came as Barcelona interim president Carlos Tusquets said the club should have sold Messi in the summer.
Argentina forward Messi, 33, told Barca he wanted to leave at that time – and said a clause in his contract meant he could do so for free.
Barca said that was not the case and they would not let their all-time leading goalscorer and captain go for less than his 700m euros (£624m) release clause.
His contract expires next summer when he will be free to go.
Josep Maria Bartomeu stepped down as president in October, with Tusquets taking temporary charge until elections in January.
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“Economically speaking, I would’ve sold Messi in the summer window,” Tusquets told RAC1 radio station.
“Both in terms of what you save on the wage bill as well as the money you make, it would’ve been desirable. But this is something the coaching staff have to consent to and that’s not my place.”
Messi’s contract expires next summer and Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, speaking on the BBC Football Daily podcast, says he still wants to leave the club.
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French football journalist Julien Laurens says the “biggest paradox of all” is that Neymar “in a way left Barcelona not to be in Messi’s shadow and now he is almost begging for them to play together”.
Brazil international Neymar left Barca for PSG in 2017 for a world record £200m, despite the Spanish club not wanting to sell him. The belief at the time was he wanted to step out of Messi’s shadow and be the main man at another team, enabling him to win Champions Leagues and Ballons d’Or.
But he has not achieved any of that success and publicly tried to rejoin Barcelona last summer.
Laurens says this situation is different now.
“The question he was asked is important, ‘would you like Messi to join you at Paris?’ So it’s not Neymar saying he wants to play with Messi and they could go anywhere,” he said.
Laurens believes that they would have to sell 21-year-old France striker Kylian Mbappe and let 32-year-old Argentine Angel di Maria leave to afford Messi.
“Financially you can’t have Messi, Neymar, Mbappe,” he said. “It’s impossible. I’m not sure you can have Messi, Neymar and Di Maria, who is out of contract at the end of season. So maybe let Di Maria go, sell Mbappe to Real Madrid and then bring Messi in.
“But there are a lot of financial figures – financial fair play – they’d have to work out. But a lot of people in Paris are starting to dream.
“I think if Neymar asks for the owners to sit and listen to him, he will. It’s still a long way away.”
‘Veering towards Messi joining Neymar at PSG’
Joan Laporta and Victor Font – the two frontrunners to be Barcelona president – say they want to retain Messi.
“Messi is not waiting for the new chairman,” said Balague, who has previously written about Manchester City’s desire to sign Messi over the coming months.
“The new chairman will have to convince Messi to stay. He left a clear message – he wanted to leave. He wants to leave.
“Neymar has got one and a half years left on his contract so to take him away from PSG to join Messi at Manchester City, Juventus, Inter Milan or Chelsea would be virtually impossible.
“Next summer Real Madrid will try to convince Mbappe to go so there would be a big gap.
“It seems to me we’re veering towards Messi joining Neymar at PSG, which is interesting.
“In so many ways PSG fit the bill. Paris is a place he’d be able to be himself, there are a lot of Spanish-speaking players at the club. They have the ability to win and challenge. It’s impossible for Barcelona to challenge for the top.”
He says Neymar and Messi had been trying to link up again within a year of his departure.
“They trained very hard to work together,” he said. “Within the first year he tried to convince Barcelona ‘would you have me back?’ The answer was no, there were still court cases pending between club and him.
“A year and a half ago when they tried to sign him, Messi told Neymar ‘in two or three years I’ll be leaving anyway and then you can be the star of the team but we’ll have a couple of years together’.
“Neymar gave the green light for Barcelona to make it look like they were trying to get him. Almost yearly it happens.”