Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) superstar Lionel Messi is reportedly closer to extending his stay at his current club than returning to Barcelona, as per reputed journalist Guillem Balague.
Messi, 35, left his boyhood club last summer after the Catalan giants were unable to extend his contract due to La La financial regulations. He joined the Parisians on a free transfer ahead of the 2021-22 season and helped them lift the Ligue 1 title in his debut campaign.
Under the helm of new PSG manager Christophe Galtier, the left-footed forward has been in explosive form this season. He has registered 16 goal contributions in 13 matches across all competitions.
Speaking to Le Parisien, Balague shed light on the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's current state of mind at the Parc des Princes:
"He's happy as he has never been! Things are going well on the pitch, the team has adapted to him, or rather he has his hand in the game. He feels a certain form of freedom in what he can do. Apart from his minor injury at the moment, he feels good, sharp, has done real preseason preparation."
"He hasn't had to live for months in a hotel, has recovered from a long infection due to COVID-19. Antonela [Roccuzzo] is working, she is developing her hair business, the children are well at school. All the things that held him back last season no longer exist today. He has a free spirit."
With his current contract at PSG set to expire next summer, the Argentine has been linked with a return to Camp Nou. The club hierarchy at Barcelona are in agreement over their stance on re-signing the former Newell's Old Boys player, according to SPORT.
Balague shared his thoughts about Messi's future:
"Today, I think he is closer to staying because he feels good; he is happy. But no decision will be made before the World Cup.
"It will be decided between next January and June. He has a two-year contract, plus an option. But this option must be validated by both parties. And if he wishes to stay after 2023, a new contract will have to be negotiated."
Messi is expected to be on the bench for PSG's upcoming Ligue 1 clash against Marseille at the Parc des Princes on Sunday (16 October).
Barcelona president Joan Laporta remains coy about PSG star Lionel Messi
During an interview with Barça TV (via Mundo Deportivo), Barcelona president Joan Laporta was asked about the possibility of Lionel Messi's return in the future. He responded:
"He is a PSG player, and we would not do anyone any favors and we have to respect him. We are very aware of Leo's recognition. There are many Catalans who continue to wear Leo's shirt."
Messi is Barcelona's all-time top-scorer with 672 goals in 778 appearances. He also helped the club lift 35 trophies during his 17-year stint.