Lionel Messi still rooting for Neymar to return to Barcelona from Paris Saint-Germain

Lionel Messi is still longing for Neymar to return to Barcelona and appears keen for the club to sign him and Lautaro Martinez this summer.

The Catalans attempted to re-sign Neymar last year but could not agree a deal with Paris Saint-Germain, and Messi believes Neymar is still thinking about a return.

Martinez, meanwhile, has made a huge impact with Inter Milan in Serie A this season and Messi believes he could compliment Luis Suarez well at the Nou Camp, where the club have been short of strikers.

In a wide-ranging interview with Mundo Deportivo, Messi also confirmed Sky Sports News’ exclusive that he has no intention of leaving the club this summer, and discussed his row with technical director Eric Abidal as well as Manchester City’s Champions League ban.

Messi said: “Neymar is one of the best in the world and I’d love him to come back. He is a very happy person who is always smiling and enjoys himself on and off the pitch. He gave all the players a lift.

“It’s normal for the fans to feel [resentment about his possible return] because of the way he left, and that also bothered me at the time because we tried to do everything possible to try to convince him not to do it.

“At the end of the day, we all want to win. We all want to have the best and that goes for the fans, who want to see good football and success.

“I think Neymar really wants to come back. He’s sorry about what he did and last year he tried hard to come back. I think that [apologising] would be the first step he would take to try to make it happen.”

After a tumultuous row with technical director Eric Abidal caused widespread speculation that Messi could leave this summer, Sky Sports News revealed that he intends to stay at least until the end of his current contract in 2021.

And the Argentina star confirmed to the Spanish newspaper on Thursday: “I’ve already said many times my plan is to stay and there will never be a problem for me in that regard for as long as the club and the fans want me.

“I’ve also often said I’d like to be happy and for all of us to be happy, from the club as a whole to the fans being pleased with the team and there being a winning project in place, with the team in contention to win every trophy as we’ve always done here.

“My aim is to stay at this club. I want to win the Champions League again and I want to keep winning the league. That’s what I always aspire to achieve.”

Messi admitted he “did not know what was going through Abidal’s head” when he accused unnamed players of not working hard enough for former manager Ernesto Valverde, and also insisted neither he nor the dressing room call the shots at Barcelona.

“I don’t know [why I’m accused of that],” he said. “The same thing happened with the Argentina national team. Perhaps [it is] the fact that I’ve been in the same place for such a long time and because I’m very much part of the furniture, both here and with the national team, explains it.”

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