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When Barcelona confirmed that they were in no position to renew Lionel Messi’s contract and he would be leaving on a free transfer last year, the whole footballing world was shocked.
Messi had become synonymous with Barcelona, having spent his entire career until that point at Camp Nou, leading them to great success over the year. However, the association came to a disheartening end in the summer of 2021, with the Argentine international ending up at Paris Saint-Germain.
Messi signed a two-year contract with PSG with an option of an additional twelve months. Despite that, rumours of a return to Barcelona refuse to go away. The talks gained more weight, especially after Xavi Hernandez was brought in as manager and he re-signed Dani Alves.
It has been reported that Messi’s family is finding it hard to adapt to life in Paris, which is being cited as another reason for the 34-year-old to push for a return to Catalonia.
Former Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas has backed the Argentine to make his way back to Camp Nou, as has Diego Maradona’s son, Diego Sinagra.
While his family have been facing problems adapting to a new city, it has been no different for Messi either at a new club. The 34-year-old has looked nowhere near his best since making the switch to Paris and has been unable to make the kind of impact that was expected of a player of his quality.
In 15 matches in Ligue 1 this term, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored just two goals while he has five in six UEFA Champions League appearances. Single-digit goal-returns well past the midway point of a season is very uncharacteristic for a world-beater like Messi.
A slow start to the season does not necessarily mean that the superstar is in decline. After all, he is adapting to a new league, to a new team that plays differently from what he was used to throughout his career.
At the same time, though, one cannot completely overlook the age factor – Messi will be turning 35 before the next season starts, and father time stops for nobody.
Messi’s departure in the summer left a gaping hole in the Barcelona squad. The club lost a player of tremendous quality who could change the course of any game with a moment of magic, as he had done for nearly two decades.
It is apparent that the Blaugrana have been unable to hit the same heights since his departure, which was always expected. At the same time, though, they have shown a lot of progress under Xavi Hernandez.
The 42-year-old is rebuilding the team in his own image with a core of young talent oozing with quality and potential. Younger players like Pedri, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez, Ansu Fati, Ronald Araujo and Ferran Torres, among others, are taking centre stage and helping the team enter a new era.
At such a time, bringing back Messi to Barcelona might end up proving counterproductive. There will always be an air of romanticism surrounding such reunion stories, but it is not always certain that they end up proving fruitful.
Manchester United brought back club legend Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, and even though he has continued to score goals, his arrival led to the disruption of former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rebuild job from the past two years.
Messi’s return could end up having a similar impact on the team that Xavi is building. While the Argentine will always hold a special place at the club and in the history of the game, a return, as sensational and appealing as it might be, may not be the most practical move at this point.
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