Barcelona, fans and President alike, are dreaming of a return for Lionel Messi this summer. The Argentine forward, who was forced out by the gruesome management of the club’s finances, is set to be a free agent this summer, and while the financial situation at Camp Nou is still relatively grim, there is certainly a will to see him return.
The 35-year-old superstar appears to be waiting for more clarity on the Paris Saint-Germain project before he signs on with them. Meanwhile PSG are working exactly how Messi fits into their own financial fairplay requirements, after throwing money at Kylian Mbappe to keep him last summer.
While the club aware they must first make cuts and likely sales to sign him, their players are sending out messages of affection to Messi. However on the pitch, there are also questions over where he would fit into the current ecosystem at the Blaugrana.
MD suggest that if he were to return, one of two positions would be available to him. Currently Gavi operates on the left side of what would be a 4-3-3, but tends to be a 4-2-2-2 with the ball. Messi could occupy Gavi’s role, nominally on the left, but in reality in a number 10 role between the midfield and Robert Lewandowski.
Their other alternative was at his old position on the right side of a front three, although they note that in order not to unbalance the team’s current dynamics, he would be required to press and work back – something that seems highly unlikely.
He could also operate alongside Robert Lewandowski as a second forward, but that would also require a change in formation behind him.
Unless the Blaugrana shift to a 4-2-3-1, use Messi on the left, or shift to a three at the back formation, it seems more than likely that Ousmane Dembele would have to be sacrificed from his position on the right.
Messi would have to become chief creator, and given Messi’s struggles to press for a full match, the Blaugrana would have to become a much more possession-heavy system so as not to expose that. Particularly when considering he and Lewandowski would have a combined age of 71 by September.
If he does return to Camp Nou, replacing Gavi’s role in midfield or at the top of a diamond seems the only way to maintain Lewandowski and Dembele, two of their best attacking elements this season. Pedri would likely have to be moved back in that scenario too. In any case, Messi’s arrival would open up plenty of avenues for Xavi, but also cause him a few headaches defensively.