In an interview with the Catalan newspaper Sport this week, Messi said the return of Neymar, who was at Barca from 2013 and 2017 when he left for Paris Saint-Germain, could only strengthen the Spanish champions.
“I would be thrilled if Neymar came back,” said the Argentine.
“I understand that not everyone agrees. That’s normal after everything that happened around Ney, the way in which he left, the way he abandoned us.
“But when you look at the sporting angle, for me Neymar is one of the best players in the world and obviously would improve our chances of getting the results we want.”
The Brazilian looked set to return to Camp Nou during the summer transfer window, just two years on from his departure to PSG for a record €222 million.
In two seasons with the Parisians, Neymar has scored 51 goals in 58 appearances and, after an on-off soap opera, ultimately stayed in the French capital, at least for the time being.
“I am not disappointed,” said Messi. “I would have liked it if he had come and been with us but, as I have said, we have an exceptional squad to challenge for every title, even without him.”
Messi denied reports he had used his influence to try and force the Barcelona board to push through the deal.
“Here, it is not me that gives the orders,” he said. “We never said that he had to be brought in. We didn’t make any demands.”
“I don’t know if the club (Barcelona) wanted it to happen. What I do know is that Neymar really wanted it. But I understand it is very difficult to negotiate with PSG.”
Former Barcelona and Inter Milan star Samuel Eto’o has announced on social media his retirement from football after 22-years as a professional player.
The 38-year-old former Cameroonian international played for 13 clubs but started his career with a brief period at Real Madrid, before moving to Mallorca then Barcelona, where he played for five years and won three La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies.
After his success at Barca, Inter Milan came knocking and a swap deal for Zlatan Ibrahimovic was agreed.
At Inter and under Jose Mourinho, Eto’o won Serie A and the Champions League trophy in 2010.
Eto’o then arrived in the Premier League and played for Chelsea and Everton.
He then played for Sampdoria, Antalyaspor, Konyaspor and Qatar SC before finally hanging his boots on Friday.
There’s a lot of European football to consume on a weekly basis and plenty of top performances that warrant our attention.
Whether it’s a flurry of goals from a single player or underrated contributions that had big impacts, we’re keeping an eye on them.
As such, after every round of fixtures in Europe’s top five leagues, we pick out the outstanding performers and slot them into our Team of the Week.
Here’s our latest selection.
GK: ANTHONY LOPES | LYON
Ironically, Anthony Lopes’ most eye-catching action came in the build-up to Bordeaux’s equaliser.
The team came under pressure after Thiago Mendes’ red card and after initially punching away a cross from the left, he made a spectacular save to deny Nicolas de Preville but could do nothing to stop Jimmy Briand’s effort on the rebound. His five saves in total though helped salvage a point.
RB: BENJAMIN PAVARD | BAYERN MUNICH
It’s not often that a defender is the standout player when Bayern Munich score six goals but Benjamin Pavard was just that impressive. He was a little at fault for Mainz’s early goal but he definitely made up for that lapse.
He scored with a terrific half-volley that resembled his World Cup strike for France and levelled the tie before setting up Ivan Perisic with a great cross to net the third. He remained solid at the back and composed in possession as the Bavarians pulled away.
CB: JANNIK VESTERGAARD | SOUTHAMPTON
Victor Lindelof is a very good centre-back, but he was utterly dominated by Jannik Vestergaard when the duo rose for a cross and the Southampton man emphatically buried his header past David De Gea.
The Dane also led the back-line superbly, reading the game well and making five interceptions while denying Marcus Rashford space and time.
CB: FABIAN SCHAR | NEWCASTLE UNITED
Fabian Schar scored four goals for Newcastle United last season and that makes him the top scorer from the previous campaign who’s still at the club. He opened his account for this term with a scrappy strike that nevertheless earned the Magpies a point against Watford.
The Swiss also impressed in defence, never putting a foot wrong.
LB: DANILO | JUVENTUS
He simply couldn’t have hoped for a better introduction. Having been used as a makeweight in Joao Cancelo’s move to Manchester City, Danilo came off the bench against Napoli in the 15th minute to replace the injured Mattia De Sciglio.
Within a minute, he initiated a counter-attack after Juventus defended a corner and applied the finishing touch in the opposition’s box. He also managed to keep both Lorenzo Insigne and the drifting Dries Mertens quiet.
RM: GARETH BALE | REAL MADRID
Gareth Bale was a threat right from the start against Villarreal and deserved his tap in from Dani Carvajal’s pass. With five minutes on the clock, he rescued Los Blancos with his second, cutting inside and finding the near corner to secure a 2-2 draw.
He was also sent off before the final whistle but his second booking was rather harsh. He’s certainly playing like he has a point to prove.
CM: YOURI TIELEMANS | LEICESTER CITY
Fortunate not to be sent off for a challenge on Callum Wilson but on the ball, Youri Tielemans was certainly impressed. No Leicester City player had more shots (4) or key passes (2) than the Belgian in the 3-1 victory over Bournemouth.
He was alert to bundle in his side’s second and played an instinctive first-time pass into Jamie Vardy for the third that secured the three points.
CM: DAVID SILVA | MANCHESTER CITY
The entire Premier League fanbase, let alone City, must be bitterly disappointed that David Silva will no longer grace English football with his elegant play-making come next season.
The 33-year-old was hugely influential as the champions brushed Brighton aside with a 4-0 win. Always on the move, he regularly found space in dangerous areas and provided two assists. Should’ve had a goal himself but he narrowly missed the target when Raheem Sterling squared the ball to him in the first half.
LM: ROBERTO TORRES | OSASUNA
His two goals put defending champions Barcelona to the sword and secured a vital point for Osasuna in a 2-2 draw. Roberto Torres stunned the Catalans in the seventh minute with a perfectly executed left-footed volley, dispatching Brandon’s cross from the right into the far corner.
He showed great composure to convert a late penalty as well while his overall contribution was also immense. He had eight shots, as many as the entire Barca team mustered, and also played three key passes.
ST: TIMO WERNER| RB LEIPZIG
Timo Werner’s hat-trick against Borussia Monchengladbach perfectly encapsulated what he’s all about. He showed blistering pace and the composure to finish with all three goals.
His second strike in particular saw him latch on to a loose ball, turn on the afterburners and leave the defenders for dead. However, it’s the link-up play with Emil Forsberg for the first and the fact that he made four key passes that will catch Bayern Munich’s eye after he recently signed a new deal that includes a surprisingly low release clause of just €30 million.
ST: DOMENICO BERARDI| SASSUOLO
A first-half hat-trick against Sampdoria sees Domenico Berardi claim the final spot in our XI. In a superb display of centre-forward play, the 25-year-old steered in a low cross from the left to open the scoring before nodding in another seven minutes later.
The Italian then showed his range as a striker, cutting in from the right and curling his hat-trick goal into the far corner. In his first appearance this term, he’s already nearly halfway to equalling his tally from last season (8).