Joan Laporta hopes Lionel Messi returns to Barcelona for 'beautiful ending'

Argentine forward left La Liga club last summer after his contract expired

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Barcelona president Joan Laporta has reiterated his desire to take Lionel Messi back to the Camp Nou after saying the Argentine's "chapter" at the club is "not over".

Messi brought to an end his record-breaking 21-year Barca career in July 2021 after the Catalan giants were unable to offer a new contract to their all-time leading goalscorer due to financial constraints. The 35-year-old Argentina captain soon joined Paris Saint-Germain and helped the club win the Ligue 1 title.

Messi has one year remaining on his PSG deal, with the option to extend for another, and Laporta is hopeful that the superstar forward will return to Barcelona.

"Messi was everything," Laporta told ESPN. "To Barca, he's been possibly its greatest player, the most efficient. To me he's only comparable to Johan Cruyff. But it had to happen one day. We had to make a decision as a consequence of what we inherited. The institution is in charge of players, coaches.

"I would hope that the Messi chapter isn't over. I think it's our responsibility to try to find a moment to fix that chapter, which is still open and hasn't closed, so it turns out like it should have, and that it has a more beautiful ending."

While still contending with large debt, Barcelona have raised some much-needed funds after selling 25 per cent of their domestic television rights to global investment firm Sixth Street.

That deal has allowed Barca to be active in the transfer market, with Brazilian winger Raphinha and Polish striker Robert Lewandowski arriving for a combined €105 million, while reports claim French defender Jules Kounde could be next through the door from Sevilla in a €60m deal.

"At the moment, we have a positive net worth. In about a month, we have earned close to €650m," Laporta said.

"We've had to move fast. The TV rights were sold, 25 per cent of them, and that has added important revenue. The club is on path to being sound; financially the club is better with the money that's come in, and we've been able to pay back €100m of the credit we had through Goldman Sachs.

"What's more, it needs to be said, the club is back to being sound economically, but we have to work harder to increase our earnings, not from selling shares but not by profiting through them."

Could the boost in Barca's finances help pave the way for Messi's return? "As president of Barca, I did what I had to do," Laporta said. "But also as president of Barca, and on a personal level, I think I owe him."

Barcelona are currently in the United States on a pre-season tour. After wins over Inter Miami and rivals Real Madrid, the Catalans are next in action on Tuesday against Juventus at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.

Updated: July 25, 2022, 7:16 AM
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