Lionel Messi 'really wanted to come back to Barcelona' before opting for Inter Miami

Argentine superstar revealed he is set to move to MLS side Inter Miami after turning down a hugely lucrative offer from Al Hilal and a possible return to Barca

Lionel Messi spent two seasons at Paris Saint-Germain after his shock exit from Barcelona in July 2021. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Lionel Messi said he "really wanted" to return to Barcelona this summer but had concerns similar issues would arise that led to his surprise exit from the club in 2021.

Messi, 35, revealed on Wednesday that he has agreed to join Major League Soccer side Inter Miami, ending months of speculation regarding his future after it became clear he would leave Paris Saint-Germain when his contract expires at the end of this month.

Argentina's World Cup-winning captain reportedly had three possible options on the table: Inter Miami, a hugely lucrative move to Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal, or a return to boyhood club Barcelona.

There was growing confidence that Messi would accept Hilal's reported $400 million per year offer, but sources in Saudi later told The National that they were not expecting him to play in the Saudi Pro League, where he would join long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Hilal's rivals Al Nassr.

Any move to Barca, where Messi is the all-time leading goalscorer with 672, would involve the Spanish champions needing to make several financial adjustments to accommodate his return, which would reportedly include selling several players and requiring others to take pay cuts.

Barcelona found themselves in a similar situation when attempting to renew Messi's contract in 2021, which led to his shock exit and move to PSG.

"I really wanted to come back [to Barcelona], I was really looking forward to it," Messi said in an interview with Spanish newspapers Diario Sport and Mundo Deportivo.

"But, on the other hand, after having lived through what I lived through, after the exit I had ... I didn't want to go through the same situation again and have to wait to see what was going to happen.

"I heard that they had to sell players or lower players' salaries and the truth is that I didn't want to go through that, nor take charge of obtaining something that had to do with all that.

"La Liga had given the OK, but it is not true that the decision was mine over a return, because many things were missing. It is a long summer in which I do not want to go through what I already went through again.

"We never even got to a stage of talking about a contract. A proposal was passed over, but never a formal, written, signed proposal, because there was still nothing and we did not know if it was going to be possible or not.

"There was the intention, but we couldn't advance anything, we didn't even talk about money formally.

"I didn't want to leave my future in the hands of others. Somehow, I wanted to make my own decision for myself, for my family."

In response to Messi's decision to turn down their proposal in favour of Inter Miami, Barcelona released a short statement saying the Argentine had opted for a move to the United States to step away from the "spotlight".

"On Monday, June 5, Jorge Messi, the player’s father and representative, informed Club President Joan Laporta of the player's decision to join Inter Miami, despite having been presented with a proposal from Barca, in consideration of the desire of both FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi for him to once again wear blaugrana," the statement read.

"President Laporta understood and respected Messi's decision to want to compete in a league with fewer demands, further away from the spotlight and the pressure he has been subject to in recent years.

"Both Joan Laporta and Jorge Messi also agreed to work together to promote a proper tribute from Barca fans to honour a footballer who has been, is, and always will be beloved by Barca."

Updated: June 08, 2023, 6:38 AM