After Barcelona were dumped from the Champions League on Wednesday, calls for a romantic reunion with Lionel Messi only grew…
- Barcelona are eliminated from the Champions League on Wednesday evening
- Their departure only fueled speculation that Messi could be re-signed to PSG
- Messi is in good form for PSG but has previously hinted at a return from Barcelona
- But Barça face financial constraints and have more pressing areas to strengthen
- Sportsmail examines the arguments for and against the Argentine’s re-signing
In 17 seasons with Lionel Messi in the squad, Barcelona each time reached at least the last 16 of the Champions League.
In two seasons without him, they failed to get out of the group. On the morning after their last early departure, one question was inevitable: Is the second coming the answer?
There were chants of ‘Messi! Messi!’ at Camp Nou on Wednesday night, but they were from sarcastic Bayern fans in the away section teasing the Barcelona supporters who had stayed until the bitter end when their team lost to the Germans again.
Any surgery to bring him back would be problematic. Paris Saint-Germain want Messi to sign another year until 2024, Barcelona can only pay him if big earners Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba all leave, and even then they would probably need to win the Europa League to make up for the deficit. Shortage of Champions League prize money to help pay his albeit reduced wages.
Lionel Messi’s ties to a return to Barcelona have been strengthened after the club’s elimination from the Champions League
The Catalan giants were dumped from the league after Inter defeated Viktoria Plzen
Barcelona lost 3-0 to German champions Bayern Munich at Camp Nou on Wednesday
If it can, the next question would be: will it be universally embraced as a good thing?
Barcelona supporters are divided between those who want him back in charge and those who doubt his return next summer at the age of 36 would really solve everything.
One thing is clear: he was never the problem before.
In Messi’s last seasons at Barcelona, it was suggested that he was the reason for the team’s shortcomings. The argument went that Barça had to wear it when they didn’t have the ball and that you can’t compete with 10 men in Europe.
It doesn’t seem to affect Paris Saint-Germain. Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe’s attack has scored 80 per cent of the team’s goals, and Messi has scored 11 and drafted 10 this season.
Messi left for PSG to continue his Champions League story and he now has 129 goals in the league, just 11 less than Cristiano Ronaldo’s record.
It is true that Messi was on the pitch when Barcelona were beaten 8-2 by Bayern in Lisbon in 2020, but that was in the quarter-finals: what the club wouldn’t do now and the prize money it would bring.
Barcelona reached at least the last 16 of the Champions League with Messi every season
The Argentine (C) also won four Champions League titles while with the Catalan giants
The biggest argument for not bringing Messi back is that for all the brilliance he brings, he can’t play as a right-back, where Barcelona still have a huge gap and haven’t done enough to sign Cesar Azpilicueta in the summer .
He cannot play in the position of Sergio Busquets, where it is incomprehensible that the club fails to even try to have a specialist play in his place.
And he cannot play on the left central defender where they currently have Marco Alonso, as there is no suitable alternative.
It was sad to see Busquets whistle on Wednesday in what was almost certainly his last Champions League game at home for the club he has served for more than a decade, winning the league three times. The priority is to replace him, not bring back a player who always had a special bond with him.
The flip side is that the player himself is open to the idea – as Argentine journalist Veronica Brunati tweeted earlier this month.
It is true that his family considers Barcelona home and would welcome it. And it is true that as a marketing exercise, the swan song season would be a lucrative operation for him and for the club.
Messi is on fire for PSG this season, who qualified from their Champions League group
Barcelona boss Xavi was previously reluctant when asked if Messi would return to the club
When Xavi was recently asked about the possibility, he said: ‘Let him play football in Paris’. Would the coach be as excited about the idea as some of the others?
He is skeptical of how he would fit both a 36-year-old Messi and a 35-year-old Robert Lewandowski into his team next season. The Pole has a long deal until 2026 – in terms of gifted attacking talisman he is supposed to be Messi’s replacement how would Xavi get both in his team.
Of course, it may not be Xavi’s decision. If Barcelona don’t win anything this season, the temptation will be great for President Joan Laporta to bring in another coach – who will likely be even less enthusiastic about a returning idol clouding the picture in the future.
The sensible analysis is probably that Barcelona were wrong in getting rid of Messi when they did, but hiring again next year won’t solve anything.
The caveat is that Laporta is an expert at pulling a rabbit out of the hat when all else fails, and there is no greater magical rabbit than Messi.