Barcelona’s chances of keeping Lionel Messi this summer have been boosted by their La Liga rivals Real Madrid’s likely failure to sign Kylian Mbappe at the end of the season.
As PSG landed in Barcelona on Monday amid insults, recriminations and vetoed press conference questions, Messi’s future remains the intriguing sub-plot of tonight’s last-16 Champions League first leg.
But this is not being seen in Barcelona as the inevitable prequel to the next chapter of Messi’s career at the Parc des Princes.
In contrast confidence is growing quietly at the Camp Nou that the club captain will stay and that Madrid’s financial situation helps makes that scenario more likely.
Madrid are not in as bad a financial situation as Barcelona but neither are they in a position to pay Mbappe’s transfer fee, likely to be in excess of £87million (€100m) despite the player only have one year left on his deal.
If Madrid doesn’t sign Mbappe then the 22-year-old French forward will stay in Paris and PSG cannot afford Mbappe, Neymar AND Messi.
That has not stopped PSG talking up a possible move for Messi at the end of the season and when president Nasser Al-Khelaifi arrived in Barcelona on Monday he was verbally abused by Barcelona supporters who shouted ‘you want to take Messi, thief’.
Al-Khelaifi will be at the game tonight although Barcelona still doesn’t have a president so the club will be represented by caretaker president Carles Tusquets.
Barcelona reporters were not permitted to ask questions in Mauricio Pochettino’s video-link press conference on the eve of the match for fears the media conference would be dominated by the PSG’s open pursuit of Messi.
The French journalists asking questions did not raise the point.
Messi meanwhile will spend the hours leading up to the game focusing on PSG, and former Real Madrid keeper Keylor Navas. He has scored seven goals against the Costa Rican keeper in 12 games with five wins, four draws, and just three defeats.
Messi moved on to 15 goals in La Liga at the weekend, just one behind the league’s top scorer Luis Suarez.
He was denied a hat-trick by one of the worst VAR decisions of the season. Antoine Griezmann was adjudged offside in the build-up to a Messi goal despite images showing the player onside.