Barcelona captain Lionel Messi would be "thrilled" if Neymar returned to the Catalan side but insisted they could still win trophies without the Brazilian. In an interview with the Catalan newspaper Sport this week, Messi said the return of Neymar, who was at Barca from 2013 and 2017 when he left for Paris Saint-Germain, could only strengthen the Spanish champions. "I would be thrilled if Neymar came back," said the Argentine. "I understand that not everyone agrees. That's normal after everything that happened around Ney, the way in which he left, the way he abandoned us. But when you look at the sporting angle, for me Neymar is one of the best players in the world and obviously would improve our chances of getting the results we want."
The summer transfer window saw an on-off soap opera surrounding the 27-year-old's apparent desire to leave PSG, who paid a world record 222 million euros in 2017, with Barcelona and Real Madrid both linked. Ultimately he stayed in the French capital, at least for the time being.
"I am not disappointed," said Messi. "I would have liked it if he had come and been with us but, as I have said, we have an exceptional squad to challenge for every title, even without him."
Messi denied reports he had used his influence to try and force the Barcelona board to push through the deal.
Messi has been troubled by a calf injury at the start of the La Liga season. When Messi tweaked his calf, it was assumed an attacking roster of Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele would cope. Lure of Neymar Instead, Suarez and Dembele both picked up strains against Bilbao while Griezmann delivered the sort of hesitant display to suggest he may also need time to adapt.
"This league is hard," Griezmann said. "We have to bounce back." Another muscle injury for Dembele, his fifth in two years at Barcelona, is a concern, especially after the 22-year-old reportedly took time off in France instead of undergoing medical tests. It all means Messi's return carries added urgency, even if it remains more likely the Argentinian will come off the bench at Camp Nou than be named in the starting line-up. The lure of Neymar also grows, even if Barcelona are yet to agree a deal with Paris Saint-Germain.