Lionel Messi is "excited" by the prospect of Joan Laporta winning Barcelona's upcoming presidential election, although he "will not publicly back" any of the candidates ahead of Saturday's vote, according to Ben Hayward of Goal.
Current Barca chief Josep Maria Bartomeu is on course to retain the presidency. He accumulated 8,554 validated signatures up to the last count on July 8, compared to just 4,272 for Laporta, reported by Sport. However, the club's most important player is "keen" for the latter to return to the club he guided to era-defining success between 2003 and 2010.
Hayward's article suggests Messi is looking for a reformation of the old guard to coincide with Laporta's potential return. This could include Pep Guardiola reclaiming his role as boss. He played a key role in Messi's development into one of the sport's top stars during his four years in charge from 2008 to 2012.
Messi has faced plenty of hardships since Laporta exited Camp Nou. Hayward notes former president Sandro Rosell's decision to survey fans over whether the player should be sold left a bad taste in the Argentinian's mouth.
Laporta has capitalised on this during his campaign to return to office: "With me as president, Leo will be happier," he said, per Hayward. "He will know that during the difficult times, I will be there by his side. And that I would never think about selling him."
Spanish football expert Graham Hunter suggested Rosell tried to force the player out during an interview on talkSPORT's Hawksbee and Jacobs show in 2013. Hunter indicated Rosell was "greatly involved in vanity projects," saying Neymar was his "beauty project" at the expense of Messi.
However, Rosell resigned in 2014 after court proceedings were opened against him and Bartomeu for their alleged failure to disclose the full sum paid for the Brazilian forward.
Hayward suggests Messi was also irritated by Neymar receiving a higher base pay upon his arrival, but in the years since, Leo has grown "happy" to work with Bartomeu because of the club's success under his presidency.
Even so, Hayward believes it is the player's "wish" to see Laporta return. Messi's career began under the man who helped lure Ronaldinho to the club, a player who formed a top-quality relationship with Messi, who developed into a multiple Ballon d'Or winner during Laporta's reign. There isn't a presidential candidate more committed to making sure the player never leaves.
"I have telepathy with Messi, he always knows what I'm thinking," said Laporta in June, as reported by Moises Llorens of AS. "Leo knew I would stand [for president], maybe even before I did, because he's a genius. I feel I have the backing of the dressing room."
The support of the players is unlikely to be enough. Barca's treble-winning season and instant success under Luis Enrique—hired by Bartomeu—means the current president heads into the vote with a formidable track record. The recency of his success also makes Bartomeu more prominent, as it is easy to forget silverware of years gone by.
No matter who wins the election, Messi and Barcelona are destined to land multiple trophies in the coming years. Neymar can be seen as Rosell's greatest failure and achievement; for the player is yet to let Barcelona down on the pitch. His arrival, alongside Luis Suarez, helped Messi escape the shackles of 2014 to find his best form.
The Argentinian will play a major role in determining whether the next president is deemed a success, so he must be kept content if the Catalan club are to continue moving forward.