Barcelona are ‘hugely confident’ they will be in a position to announce the return of Lionel Messi soon, sources have told 90min.
The 35-year-old is at the centre of a tug of war between former employers Barca and Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal, with his two-year stay at Paris Saint-Germain guaranteed to come to an end this summer.
Al Hilal are confident they can persuade Messi to move to Saudi Arabia – he recently made an unauthorised trip to the country as part of his duties as an ambassador for the tourism board – but the player is believed to prefer a return to Catalonia, where he spent the first 21 years of his career after moving from his native Argentina.
Messi’s representatives, including his father, Jorge, have received a contract offer from Al Hilal estimated to be worth €400m-a-year, which would make him the highest paid footballer of all time.
Barcelona won’t be able to match that financial package but are doing all they can to clear the financial decks and make space for Messi on their wage bill – he only left the club in 2021 because La Liga would not authorise his new contract due to the club’s financial plight.
President Joan Laporta is confident the club will be able to balance the numbers and sources have reiterated to 90min that Barcelona believe they will be in a position to announce Messi’s return soon.
One piece of the jigsaw was slotted into place earlier this week when veteran midfielder Sergio Busquets confirmed he will depart Camp Nou at the end of the season, after winning 32 major honours with his boyhood club en route to making over 700 appearances.
Busquets was one of Barcelona’s highest earners, with his imminent departure prompting La Liga president, Javier Tebas, to tell COPE of Messi’s potential return: “Busquets’s departure is the beginning of the road for Messi to return.
“But to reach the end, they still have to walk many meters. I’m not the one to give them the green light, it will be their economic control.”
90min understands that Barcelona are prepared to listen to offers for young winger Ansu Fati, while they will also consider bids for Ousmane Dembele, Raphinha and Ferran Torres – players who all earn a significant wage at the club and may see their minutes marginalised by Messi’s return.
Others are likely to leave as well to allow Barcelona to pursue other long-term targets, including Manchester City duo Ilkay Gundogan, who is available this summer on a free transfer, and Bernardo Silva.