Barcelona president Joan Laporta has said the club can compete with Saudi Arabia’s offer for Lionel Messi, even if they cannot match it financially.
ESPN reported earlier this month that Messi, who turns 36 in June, will leave Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent when his contract expires in the summer, with sources telling ESPN there is an offer for the Argentina international from Saudi Arabia.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
Major League Soccer side Inter Miami are also interested.
“With all due respect to Saudi Arabia — where a lot of good work and investment is taking place around the league there — Barca is Barca,” Laporta told TV3 on Monday after the Catalan club clinched their 27th LaLiga title on Sunday.
“Barca is his home. Barca can compete with anyone. The history this club has and the feeling of our 400 million supporters is so strong.”
Barca’s economic situation limits them from matching what Messi could potentially earn in the Middle East, but they are hopeful LaLiga, who have strict financial fair play regulations, will allow them to make signings this summer.
“The club is following an austerity plan, but we are working hard to build a competitive team for next season,” Laporta added. “We will see if LaLiga approve our viability plan.”
Another hurdle to Messi returning to the club where he made a record 778 appearances, scoring 672 goals, was thought to be his relationship with Laporta, which broke down when he was forced to leave for PSG in 2021.
“I have spoken with him recently to rectify the situation after I had to put the club before everything, even him, the best player in the world,” Laporta said.
“It was a pleasant conversation. We have recovered the relationship we have had for many years.”
Laporta also added that it was “unpleasant” to see Messi being jeered by PSG fans after he was recently suspended by the French club for one week after making an unauthorised commercial trip to Saudi Arabia.
Messi’s treatment in Paris contrasts with the affection still held for him in Barcelona. Fans gathered at Canaletes at the top of La Rambla on Sunday, where supporters go in the city to celebrate titles, chanted his name as part of their celebrations.