Lionel Messi’s departure from Barcelona is undoubtedly one of the biggest sports stories in recent memory.
But it has all ended in tears after financial constraints on Barca prevented them from signing Messi to a new contract.
The 34-year-old had no choice but to leave and in a whirlwind week, he has now been announced as a Paris Saint-Germain player.
In doing so, he has reunited with his old pal Neymar – who has been desperate to reunite with his friend – and what a journey it has been.
Neymar and Messi “wrong turn”
Since Neymar’s departure from Barcelona in 2017, so much was made of the fact that the Brazilian wanted to step out of Messi’s shadow.
The belief was that he would stand a better chance of winning the Ballon d’Or if he led PSG to a Champions League title, whereas in Catalonia that accolade would always be tied to his South American chum.
And Neymar’s former agent Andre Cury has even stated that his old client should regret moving to Paris and that the only chance of a reunion between him and Messi would be back at Barcelona.
Earlier this year, he said: “Laporta is the only one who can reunite Messi and Neymar. Messi will not leave [Barcelona] and he has decided to end his career at Barcelona. If Neymar plays with Messi again, it will be at Barcelona.
“Neymar has the Barca door open. The Catalans know he was wrong and even he recognised it later himself.”
And that situation seemed a lot more probable than the alternative – with Neymar actively pushing for a move away from PSG last summer and trying to force a Barcelona transfer.
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It failed to materialise and it put him in hot water with the club’s ultras but he has slowly regained their trust after signing a new contract earlier this summer, basically tying him to the Parc des Princes for the reminder of his peak years in football.
Now Neymar has got his wish – Messi is once again his teammate and at PSG – it could not have worked out better for the 29-year-old.
So many tears
In their four-year stint away from each other, there have been a lot of tears shed on both sides.
Last year, Neymar spoke candidly as he remembered his time at Barcelona where he spoke at length about Messi before breaking down.
“Honestly, it’s difficult, very difficult for me to talk about Messi, because it was very special for me at Barcelona, I say this to everybody,” he told Rede Globo’s Esporte Espetacular.
“At the moment when I needed the most support, the best player in the world arrived and gave me a hand. He said: ‘Come here, I’m here to help you.'”
Just a year after his departure from the Nou Camp in 2018, Neymar was told to come back to the club by Messi.
“I think it is complicated how Neymar would leave PSG,” he said. “We would love him to come back, as a player and for the dressing room.
“We’re friends. We had some good experiences together and others not so much. But PSG are not going to let Neymar walk away.”
Just this year the waterworks have been in full force, too, when Messi comforted Neymar in the Copa America final – which saw the Argentine finally lift an international trophy.
His Brazilian buddy had burst into tears at full-time but pictures showed the two titans of football sharing a laugh after hugging it out.
Messi has also been on his own emotional journey after breaking down in his press conference where he confirmed his exit from Barcelona last week.
He said: “I have been 16 years in the fist team and to start from scratch is hard for me and my family especially. We will adapt to what comes next.
“I feel very sad now as I have to leave a club that I love. I did not expect this. I always told the truth. Last year I wanted to leave, this year I did not want to leave.”
As with so many football friends, they are almost in constant contact with one another via WhatsApp and Neymar and Messi are no different.
One group chat contains their former strike partner Luis Suarez, collectively known as ‘MSN’, and one of the most fearsome attacks in the history of the game.
The trio helped Barcelona win the Champions League, the Copa del Rey and La Liga – scoring an astonishing 122 goals together more than any other strikeforce in Spanish history.
The group chat – called ‘The three sudacas’, report Sport – would regularly text one another about reuniting and restarting their deadly partnership.
Over the years, both Messi and Suarez would encourage Neymar to ditch PSG and return to Barcelona – a notion the Brazil international entertained, leading to his bust-up with the club in 2019.
The chances of the three amigos playing together once again still remains unlikely with Suarez at Atletico Madrid, who are looking to retain their league crown with the Uruguayan spearheading their side once again.
But two of the trio are still more than enough to overwhelm defences with Messi and Neymar together again.
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