Speaking in a wide-ranging interview, Messi explained that he would love to play alongside Neymar again in Barcelona.

“I’ve said it many times, at the sports level ‘Ney’ is one of the best in the world and I would love him to return,” he said.

“He was a very happy person, he was always happy, he had fun both on and off the pitch. “

Neymar’s departure from the club to French side PSG left a sour taste in the mouth of many Barcelona fans, who may need some winning over if Neymar did return to Catalunya. Messi said he understood some fans’ hesitance to embrace the Brazilian, but he said he believed Neymar also felt bad about the manner of his exit and he hopes things can be smoothed over ahead of a possible return.

“It is normal for people to see him that way because of the way he left,” he said.

“It also bothered me at the time, we tried to convince him not to. But in the end, we all want to win and have the best.

“As I said before, he is one of the best and gave us a lot on the pitch. But it is understandable that people think like that, since he left in a way he did not like.

“He is really looking forward to coming back, he always seemed sorry. He did a lot to return and that would be the first step to try to return.”

Messi also paid tribute to old rival Cristiano Ronaldo, as he assessed the impact of his departure on Barcelona’s longtime rivals Real Madrid.

“They lost a lot of goals,” he said.

“It was an obvious thing that was going to happen. Not only goals, Cristiano Ronaldo also gives you many other things. Madrid has great players, but Cristiano scores 50 goals per season.”

And he also revealed his shock over the tragic death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, saying such a huge moment cuts away the dramas of life and reminds him of what’s truly important.

“It took me by surprise,” said Messi.

“We were with the kids watching the news and I didn’t know much until I heard it properly. It was a shock, I thought it was a mistake and it couldn’t be true. But I found out and it was terrible.

“When something like this happens or a major illness we think about how lucky we are and that we have to enjoy life.”

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