Lionel Messi 'would have loved' Neymar to return to Barcelona

Messi says he was in contact with Neymar over the summer as Barcelona tried to negotiate Brazil forward's move back to Camp Nou

FILE PHOTO: (L-R) Barcelona's Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi celebrate a goal against Atletico Madrid during their Spanish First Division soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona January 11, 2015. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo
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Lionel Messi told a Spanish newspaper he wanted Neymar to return to Barcelona this summer, calling the Brazilian "one of the best players in the world".

The most protracted transfer story over the summer was the proposal by Barcelona to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou two years after leaving the club for Paris Saint-Germain for a world record €222 million (Dh899m).

The Brazil forward, 27, let it be known he was agitating for a move back to the club where he spent four years alongside Messi from 2013-17 to form one of the most prolific strike forces in history alongside Luis Suarez.

Messi said he would have loved to have rekindled that attacking trident, saying Neymar could have helped the Spanish champions fulfill their ambitions of more trophies as well helped bolster the club's commercial revenues.

"The truth is I would have loved him to come back to us," Barca captain Messi told Spanish newspaper Sport on Thursday.

"I understand some people were against it and that's normal considering everything that happened and how he left us, but thinking about it on a sporting level, for me Neymar is one of the best players in the world.

"Obviously he would have increased our chances of getting the results that we all want. The club would have taken a leap forward, in terms of sponsors, our image, our growth, but in the end it didn't happen."

Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said last week that the club did everything possible to sign Neymar, but admitted they could not meet PSG's asking price for the forward, who hit 105 goals in four seasons for the Catalans.

Messi said Neymar told him he was looking forward to returning to the club where he had won two La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys and the Champions League during a four-year spell before moving to France, where he has endured a fractious relationship with his employers.

"I don't know what happened with the directors, I know they were speaking with Neymar; he told me how things were going. He was really looking forward to coming back," Messi, who has been unable to play this season due to a calf injury, said.

"I understand it's difficult to negotiate with PSG and with Neymar because he's one of the best. These negotiations are never easy."

Barca's all-time top scorer also said he had no plans to quit the Catalans any time soon after it was confirmed by the club that his contract contains a clause that allows him to decide at the end of each season whether he wants to leave for free.

"I can say that I want to be at Barcelona for as long as I can and end my career here because this is my home," he said.

"I want to stay here if I can stay in good shape, play well, feel important and if I see we have a winning project."