Lionel Messi has said he thought Neymar would end up moving to Real Madrid in the summer when he did not rejoin Barcelona.
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar, who left Barca for the French capital in August 2017 for £200 million, was widely linked with a move back to the Camp Nou in the recent transfer window, but Real's interest was also reportedly piqued by Neymar's eagerness to depart the Parc des Princes:
In the end, he stayed put at PSG and has netted four goals in five Ligue 1 appearances since being reintegrated into the side by manager Thomas Tuchel.
Messi, though, has now revealed his concerns the Brazil international could have ended up at the Santiago Bernabeu, per RAC1 (h/t Jack Kinnersley of MailOnline):
"I really thought Neymar would go to Real Madrid if he didn't come here. He really wanted to leave Paris, and he'd shown it. And I thought that [club president] Florentino [Perez] and Real Madrid were going to do something to sign him."
Barcelona have not given up hope of getting Neymar, 27, back to Catalonia.
It is hardly a surprise Barca are eager to get Neymar back at the club. During his four-year spell at the Camp Nou between 2013 and 2017, Barca won two La Liga titles, the Copa del Rey three times and, perhaps most crucially, the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League.
The partnership between Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez was crucial to that success:
In a bid to replace Neymar, Barca have spent vast sums of money on the signings of Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele.
The Brazilian is now on loan at Bayern Munich, while Griezmann's impact cannot yet be judged given he only joined in July.
However, former Atletico man Griezmann's prominence at Barca may be short-lived if the Blaugrana do re-sign Neymar next year.