Lionel Messi has expressed his belief that Neymar wants to return to Barcelona, while lauding reported target and Inter star Lautaro Martinez.
Neymar left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222 million (£186m/$240m) transfer in 2017, but the Brazil star continues to be linked with a Camp Nou return.
The PSG forward reportedly tried to engineer a move back to Barca at the start of the season, though a transfer did not materialise, despite the club’s best efforts.
Messi, who has made no secret of his desire to reunite with Neymar, told Mundo Deportivo: “I say it many times, at the sports level, Ney is one of the best in the world and I would love for him to return.
“He is really looking forward to coming back, he always seemed sorry [after leaving]. He did a lot to return and that would be the first step to try to arrive.”
Neymar’s decision to leave Barca almost three years ago angered some of his former team-mates, but Messi understands the reasoning behind his move away from Camp Nou.
“It is normal for people to see him that way because of the way he left, it also bothered me at the time, we tried to convince him not to,” Messi said.
“But in the end, we all want to win and have the best. We and the people. As I said before, he is one of the best and contributed for us a lot on the pitch. But it is understandable that people think like that, since he left in a way they did not like.”
Barca have also been linked to Inter forward Martinez as the La Liga champions eye a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.
Martinez reportedly has a €111 million (£93m/$120m) release clause amid links to Barca, Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid.
Messi knows Martinez well as the pair are international team-mates for Argentina, and the Barca captain has hailed his compatriot as a “spectacular” player.
“He is spectacular, he has impressive conditions,” Messi said. “He was seen to be a great player, now he exploded and is showing it. He is very strong. He has a very good one against one, he has a lot of goals, in the area he fights with anyone. Lautaro has a lot of quality. He is very complete.”
Messi continued: “I wish they could all come and fight it all, and the Champions League. Lautaro has much resemblance to Luis.”