Laporta: Neymar wanted Barca return before Messi exit

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has claimed that Neymar was “keen” on a return to the Nou Camp before Lionel Messi’s shock departure to Paris Saint-Germain this summer.

The Brazilian spent four years in Catalonia, winning two La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys and a Champions League as part of the free-scoring MSN trio alongside Messi and Luis Suarez.

Throughout his stay in Paris he has been regularly linked with a return to the club to reunite with good friend Messi and Laporta has claimed that he spoke with the 29-year-old about re-joining earlier this year before the scale of Barcelona’s financial issues became so apparent.

Lionel Messi, Neymar (AP)
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Lionel Messi and Neymar have been reunited at PSG

Neymar has now been reunited with the Argentine at PSG after Barca’s financial problems meant they were unable to offer Messi a new contract, despite agreeing terms on the deal. Now Laporta has claimed that an offer to Neymar was in the works before their interpretation of how they believed La Liga’s Financial Fair Play rules would operate changed.

“We tried to sign Neymar. From the conversations that we had, bringing him here seemed like an attractive proposition and he was keen to come,” Laporta told Esport3.

FC Barcelona club President Joan Laporta pauses during a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. Barcelona announced on Thursday Aug. 5, 2021 that Lionel Messi will not stay with the club. He is leaving after 17 successful seasons in which he propelled the Catalan club to glory, helping it win numerous domestic and international titles since debuting as a teenager. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)..
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FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta

“We interpreted fair play differently, but based on the way [Javier] Tebas [LaLiga president] interprets it, there was no point in making that offer.”

Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi completed his move to Paris last month after signing a two-year contract – with an option for a third – worth £25m per year after tax, admitting that Neymar helped to persuade him to move to PSG when it became clear his time at Barca was at an end.

Laporta also denied that Messi could have signed his new contract at the club had Barcelona managed to move Antoine Griezmann on earlier in the summer. Griezmann completed a shock return to Atletico Madrid on loan on Deadline Day.

Lionel Messi pictured holding his PSG jersey after a press conference
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Lionel Messi pictured holding his PSG jersey after a press conference

The Barcelona president admitted it was strange to see Messi in another shirt when he made his PSG debut before the international break, adding that he has not spoken to the 34-year-old since, but that he did watch his first game for his new club.

“It was weird to see him wear another kit and to know that we won’t have him here,” Laporta said. “It’s a strange feeling and I didn’t enjoy seeing him play for a rival club that we have faced in the past.”

As for Messi’s decision to join PSG, Laporta added: “I didn’t like it. They are our rivals to boot and a team that we’ve faced in the past.”

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