Lionel Messi on top of Barcelona hit list despite Saudi Arabia link
Barcelona president Joan Laporta said on Monday the club will "do everything possible" to bring Argentine superstar Lionel Messi back in the close season.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward is set to leave in the summer when his contract expires and new La Liga champions Barcelona are hoping to lure their all-time top goalscorer back, despite strong interest from Saudi Arabia.
Messi has had two lacklustre seasons in Paris after a glorious era at Barcelona where he won four Champions League and 10 La Liga titles, and is still worshipped by the fans there.
Laporta said he has spoken with Messi to try and rebuild the relationship between them, which was damaged when he left in 2021.
Messi wanted to stay at Barcelona but the club could not afford to keep him because of debt of over one billion euros ($1.1 billion).
"I have spoken to Leo to somehow redirect a situation that occurred, in which I had to put the club ahead of everything, even him, who is the best player in the world," Laporta told Catalan regional public television station, TV3.
"The truth is that it was a very affectionate conversation, very pleasant, and we have also been sending each other messages lately -- I congratulated him on the World Cup."
In the early hours of Monday morning after Barcelona won 4-2 at Espanyol to clinch La Liga, Laporta said on Twitch that "we will do everything possible" to sign Messi.
However, speaking on TV3, he was more cautious.
"He is a Paris Saint-Germain player and what we will do is improve the team in all areas, we have already worked on that," said Laporta.
"I think it would do me a disservice to talk about these questions about Leo, because he belongs to a team like Paris Saint-Germain, and we have to wait until the end of the season, until it is over and then we can talk more calmly about this."
AFP reported last week that sources close to negotiations said it was a "done deal" that Messi would move to Saudi Arabia next season.
However, Laporta said that despite the money on offer in the Middle East -- a reported 400 million dollars a year -- Barcelona could compete for Messi's signature.
"With all due respect to Saudi Arabia, Barca is Barca, and it is his home," added Laporta.
"We can compete with everyone. History backs us, the feelings are too strong, we have 400 million fans around the world too."
Barcelona need to make over 200 million euros in savings, or new income, to be able to operate without restrictions under La Liga financial fair play rules.