Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo has stoked speculation that the club will make a summer swoop for Lionel Messi, who is in the final months of his contract with Barcelona.
As the clock ticks down on Messi’s current deal with Barcelona, speculation is intensifying about whether the 33-year-old will finally complete the move away from the Nou Camp which he was forced to abort at the end of last season.
Messi is already free to formally talk to potential suitors but has suggested he will wait until the end of the season to make his mind up.
The Barca skipper’s decision will likely depend on the Catalans’ success in the current campaign as well as the state of play in the boardroom, where a new president will be elected in March.
Should Messi leave the club he has been at for 20 years, it would take a European rival with deep pockets to match his colossal wages.
The Qatari-owned PSG would be one such option and can also offer Messi the attraction of a reunion with former Barcelona strike partner Neymar.
PSG chief Leonardo was coy when asked about a swoop for Messi – but admitted players such as the six-time Ballon d’Or winner would always be potential transfer targets.
“Great players like Messi will always be on PSG’s list,” the Brazilian said, Goal reported.
“This is of course not the time to talk about it, or to dream about it, but we are seated at the large table of those clubs who are following the matter closely.
“In fact, no, we are not yet seated, but our chair is reserved just in case. Four months in football is an eternity, especially in this period,” he added.
After PSG sacked head coach Thomas Tuchel in December despite the German leading the club to a maiden Champions League final appearance, some felt that his replacement Mauricio Pochettino could be the ideal man to lure his fellow Argentine Messi to the Parc des Princes.
But of more immediate concern to those in Paris could be securing the longer-term futures of current PSG attacking duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe – both of whom will be out of contract in the summer of 2022.
Leonardo said the club was working on getting both to commit to beyond that, but admitted PSG would not “beg” them.
“I hope they are convinced that PSG is a good place at the moment for a very high level and ambitious footballer,” said the World Cup winner.
“We just have to find an agreement between their desires, their requirements, our expectations and our means.
“We don’t have to beg them: ‘Please stay’. It’s discussed more than that. Those who really want to stay will stay. We talk regularly and I have good feelings on these two issues.”
Messi, meanwhile, is facing a period on the sidelines after he was sent off for the first time ever in his Barcelona career as they lost to Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday.
Messi took a swing at Athletic’s Asier Villalibre in the dying seconds of extra-time as Barca trailed 3-2, being handed a straight red card after the referee reviewed VAR footage.
Messi could be banned for up to four games for the incident.