LIONEL MESSI is holding off signing a new long-term contract at Barcelona, until club chiefs bring old pal Neymar “home”, according to reports.
The Brazilian star, 27, has stated his desire to return to the Nou Camp – and Messi appears to be taking full advantage.
In an emotional interview, Neymar revealed he “never should have left” Barcelona and wants “to go back home”.
Now, Spanish football expert Graham Hunter has claimed superstar Messi, 32, will only commit his future to Barca if they sign his old friend.
On his podcast, Hunter claimed: “Messi is a central player in all of this.
“Messi is not a stroppy player – people have portrayed him as such falsely. But when he sneezes, Barcelona catches a cold.
“[Josep Maria] Bartomeu, the president, has said before he leaves – and he must quit the club in 2021 at the latest – he wants to leave Messi renewed once more.
“Whether Messi is saying ‘get me Neymar’ or whether he’s whispering ‘before we sit down to negotiate, I want the front line reinforced with Neymar’, the fact is: Messi wants Neymar back.
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“He, [Luis] Suarez and Neymar – even though they’re different characters – are very friendly.
“Messi found a partner that understood him technically, who served him and who created masses of space.
“The last time Barcelona won the treble, they had that ‘MSN’ up front.
“It’s clear Messi believes his route back to the Champions League isn’t just Neymar specifically, but more people supplying goals around him.
“Messi is saying ‘if you want me to sign a new contract, first renew Neymar’.”
Earlier this week it was claimed Barcelona had launched a £90million bid for Neymar, with two Nou Camp stars being thrown into the deal.
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Having left to join PSG for a world-record £198m in 2017, Barca are being forced to throw in some expensive makeweights.
Two of Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic, Nelson Semedo and Malcom are thought to be included.
Messi and Neymar spent four years together at Barcelona, in which time they won two La Liga crowns and the Champions League together.