Pep Guardiola has told ESPN Argentina that Lionel Messi “will do the impossible” to return to former club Barcelona when his Paris Saint-Germain contract ends this summer.
Messi’s father and agent Jorge Messi issued a statement on Tuesday denying that the forward has an agreement in place to move to Saudi Arabia next season. Sources previously told ESPN that Messi will leave the Paris club in the summer and he is considering an offer to join Al Hilal, the city rivals of Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Al Nassr.
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Messi was forced to leave Barca in August 2021 when the LaLiga club’s financial squeeze left them unable to register a new deal for the Argentina captain. The Catalan club’s vice president Rafa Yuste said in March they were in contact with the 35-year-old over a potential return.
“I’m a Barcelona fan, I’ve got my tickets [at Camp Nou], and I just hope that one day we can say goodbye to him as he deserves,” Guardiola told ESPN. “He’s the greatest player of all time.
“In the last 12 years or so, Barcelona had a ‘boom’ and that wouldn’t have been possible without him. And I’m not talking about numbers, but rather his involvement in the play, his beauty, his efficiency, his efficiency, everything.”
Guardiola coached Messi at Spotify Camp Nou from 2008 until 2012, winning three LaLiga titles and two Champions Leagues.
The manager then went on to take charge of Bayern Munich and now Manchester City — drawing 1-1 with Real Madrid in Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg — while Messi remained at Barca until 2021, when he joined PSG on a free transfer.
“I never would have thought that it would end as it did,” Guardiola added. “I’m convinced what president [Joan] Laporta loves Leo, and since he left, he has said [Messi] deserves to have a farewell for the important figure that he is.
“Leo helped our club [Barcelona] become much greater than when he arrived. When a person is so big, you have to say goodbye in the right way. He left because of very difficult financial circumstances, for thousands of reasons that I’m not going to get into.
“I hope the day comes when I’m in my seat [at Camp Nou] and I can stand up and applaud, and say goodbye to Leo as he deserves. And I know that Joan [Laporta] is going to try, and Leo too, and he and his family will receive all the love that Barcelona fans have for him, with all the gratitude and respect for what he did for the club.”
Messi’s future beyond PSG remains unclear, however sources told ESPN there is also interest from Major League Soccer (MLS) for a move to the United States.
The World Cup-winning captain will return from suspension for PSG and be able to play Saturday’s match against AC Ajaccio following an apology over missing training to go on an unsanctioned trip to Saudi Arabia.
“There is absolutely nothing [in place] with any club for next season,” Messi’s father Jorge said in a statement on Tuesday. “The decision will never be taken before Lionel finishes the league campaign with PSG. Once the season ends, that will be the moment to analyse things and see what options there are and to take a decision.”