Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi is upset to see Barcelona struggle in his absence and has reiterated he would love to one day return to the club.
Messi’s trophy-laden two-decade association with Barcelona came to an end in August when he joined PSG on a free transfer.
He scored a club-record 672 goals for Barca across 778 appearances, but the Catalan giants were unable to honour a contract offered to the player, due to financial restrictions.
The Argentina international’s shock exit has left a huge void at Camp Nou, with Barca winning just seven of their 17 matches in all competitions this campaign.
Barca are seventh in LaLiga and have a crucial tie with Benfica on Tuesday as they aim to keep their Champions League last-16 hopes in their own hands.
Asked if his former club’s form this season makes him sad, Messi said: “Yes, obviously. I always want the best for Barcelona. I’m a fan even though I’m not playing there now.
“And I have colleagues and friends there within the team. I want them to do well. It is true that in LaLiga they’ve dropped many points, but there is still a lot more to play for. I have no doubt that Barcelona will get themselves back up the table.”
Messi, who spent 17 seasons in Barca’s first team, revealed earlier this month he is open to returning to the LaLiga club in the future in a technical secretary position.
In a wide-ranging interview published by Marca on Tuesday, Messi gave further insight into his recent departure and his future plans.
“I always said that at some point I will return to Barcelona because it is my home and because I am going to live there,” he said. “And obviously if I can contribute and help the club I would love to come back.
“My exit is done. I left there and time has passed. What they told me is that they couldn’t renew my contract and that I couldn’t stay. You don’t have to look for more culprits or look back at what happened. I’ll stick with what they told me and that’s it.”
Barca’s terrible start to their first season without Messi since 2003-04 led to the sacking of head coach Ronald Koeman in October and the subsequent appointment of Xavi.
Koeman left with a record of 28 wins from his 48 league matches in charge, but Messi believes the Dutchman was treated harshly, saying such dismissals are always “unfair” to coaches.
“When there are bad results, the easiest thing is to target the coach, to replace him and not the players,” Messi said.
Messi has made a mixed start to the new chapter in his career with PSG, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner scoring four goals in nine appearances in all competitions.
He netted his first Ligue 1 goal in his sixth outing in the competition last weekend and now feels his “adaption has been pretty fast”.
Messi has joined a star-studded cast at PSG that also includes Kylian Mbappe and former Barca team-mate Neymar.
Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the trio each rank in the top seven for goal involvements in all competitions among players from clubs in Europe’s top five leagues.
Messi leads the way with a combined 377 goals and assists, with Mbappe fifth on 246 goal involvements and Neymar seventh with 231.
Despite boasting arguably the strongest attack on the continent, Messi does not believe PSG can consider themselves as firm favourites to win the Champions League.
“Everyone says that we are the big favourites and I will not deny that we are one of the candidates by name, but we still need things to become a really strong team,” he said.
“We have to finish consolidating as a team and we have the advantage of having very great players to achieve it. But we are not the only ones, there are other great teams that are candidates.”