Lionel Messi's 'Chapter' at Barcelona Is 'Not Over,' Says President Joan Laporta

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJuly 24, 2022

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 08: Lionel "Leo" Messi during his press conference to talk about his departure from FC Barcelona at Camp Nou stadium on August 08, 2021, in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo By Marc Gonzalez Aloma/Europa Press via Getty Images)
Photo By Marc Gonzalez Aloma/Europa Press via Getty Images

Barcelona president Joan Laporta hopes that Lionel Messi's story with his former club hasn't completely concluded.

"Messi was everything," Laporta told ESPN. "To Barca, he's been possibly its greatest player, the most efficient. To me he's only comparable to Johan Cruyff. But it had to happen one day. We had to make a decision as a consequence of what we inherited. The institution is in charge of players, coaches.

"I would hope that the Messi chapter isn't over. I think it's our responsibility to try to ... find a moment to fix that chapter, which is still open and hasn't closed, so it turns out like it should have, and that it has a more beautiful ending."

Barcelona's financial woes ahead of last season meant that the club could no longer afford Messi's wages, and he joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after spending the first 17 years of his professional career with the Catalan giant.

That transition wasn't seamless for either side. Messi had six goals and 15 assists in 26 total Ligue 1 appearances, pedestrian stats for the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, while Barcelona finished trophyless, failed to reach the knockout stage of the Champions League and finished second in La Liga behind rivals Real Madrid.

It seemed clear that Messi never wanted to leave the only European club he had ever known, as he was emotional during the press conference announcing his departure last summer.

Fabrizio Romano @FabrizioRomano

Pic of the year.<br>End of an era.<br>Historical day.<br><br>Lionel Andrés Messi <a href="https://t.co/5zwQAKnwOH">pic.twitter.com/5zwQAKnwOH</a>

"As president of Barca, I did what I had to do," Laporta told ESPN. "But also as president of Barca, and on a personal level, I think I owe him."

What exactly that means is unclear. Barça has already made several splashy signings this summer in attacking positions, including superstar striker Robert Lewandowski and promising winger Raphinia, so it seems highly unlikely that the club would make a move for Messi this summer.

But the Argentine superstar has just one more year remaining on his PSG contract (with an option for an additional year as well), so perhaps a reunion in the future isn't out of the question.

There has been speculation that Messi could join the MLS' Inter Miami after his PSG contract runs up, perhaps even becoming a minority owner in the process. But a Barcelona reunion would be the storybook ending Laporta, at least, seems to be hoping is still in the cards.