Barça tried to sign Neymar Junior in the recent summer transfer window but were unable to agree a fee with PSG. Messi, who spoke exclusively to SPORT, admits that he would have liked for Neymar to re-join him at Barcelona. However, he also reveals that neither him nor anybody else in the first team squad have any say in what transfers take place. It's possible a move for Neymar could be reactivated again in January.
"Honestly, yes. I would have loved to have Neymar back. I understand those people who are against his return and it’s understandable for what happened with ‘Ney’ and the way that he left. But thinking about it on a sporting level, I personally think Neymar is one of the best players in the world and having him in our squad would increase our chances of achieving our objectives. In the end it didn’t happen and we have to think about the squad we have and focus on our goals."
Do you think Barça did everything possible to sign him?
To be honest, I don’t know. I didn’t have much information about how the negotiations were going to say whether or not Barcelona did everything possible.
Did you ever get the feeling, as has been rumoured, that the club pretended to make an effort in order to keep the dressing room happy?
I don’t know what happened with the board. I know that I spoke with Ney and he told me how things were going. He was desperate to come back. I don’t know if the club really tried or not. From what I do know, Neymar was hoping it would happen. I also understand it’s very difficult to negotiate with PSG after all their previous back and forth issues with Barcelona. And it’s difficult because Neymar is one of the best around. Negotiations are never easy. I can’t offer an opinion because I don’t know everything. I know what was published and what they said.
Did you follow everything closely?
Yes, obviously I wanted him to come not just for the sporting side of things but also for the club. In terms of the image, marketing, sponsorships and to keep growing. It would have given the club a lift too. But it didn’t happen.
Did you speak with Neymar during the summer? How did he experience the whole saga?
I haven’t spoken to him since the transfer story ended. I got injured and he began to train again. What I do know is that he was desperate to leave and come to Barcelona.
Did you believe the deal was done at any point?
As I told you, different things come out every day and you’re never quite sure what the real status of the negotiation is.
It’s said that the dressing room asked for this signing. Was that true?
They report a lot of things but asking the club to sign him? No. Obviously we talk about what we’ve heard and that Neymar could arrive. We gave our opinions of whether it’d be good if he came or not but we never said they had to sign him. We gave our opinion in the same way we did with Griezmann and the other players who arrived. And even those who didn’t end up coming in.
After seeing how the transfer played out, are you upset Neymar didn’t come?
No, I would have liked for him to return but I think we have a spectacular squad and can achieve everything without him. So no, I’m not disappointed. I would have liked to play alongside him again, that’s all.