MADRID, Spain, March 19 – Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said on Saturday that “the doors are open” to Lionel Messi.
Xavi was speaking in a press conference ahead of Sunday’s Clasico, when Barca take on La Liga leaders Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Messi has endured a disappointing season at Paris Saint-Germain, although Barca’s dire financial situation makes it difficult to re-sign the Argentine.
The latest La Liga spending restrictions released last week put Barcelona’s limit at -144 million euros ($159 million). This means the club will have to make huge savings to sign anyone in the next transfer window.
Messi was sacked last year because Barca couldn’t afford to renew his contract, bringing an emotional end to the striker’s historic career at Camp Nou.
When asked if he would open the door for Messi to return, Xavi said: “He’s the best player in history and in the history of the club, he’s earned the right to open the doors for him. .
“As long as I am a coach, the doors are open to him if he wants to come any day. He is the best in history and as a club we owe him a great tribute, he deserves it, but he has a contract with PSG, so I can’t tell you more.
“If he wants to come any day, see training, talk to the coach, the doors are open because he is the best player in the club’s history.”
Without Messi, Barcelona have struggled for much of the season but Xavi, who was appointed in November, has overseen a significant improvement in his form.
– Real without injured Benzema –
Barca are in third place, on track to qualify for next season’s Champions League, and will be hoping for a decisive victory against Real Madrid, who will be without star striker Karim Benzema.
Benzema is out with a calf injury and won’t be risked, allowing the Frenchman to recover the international break for the break-in and the Champions League quarter-finals against Chelsea.
“Tomorrow he won’t be able to play because he hasn’t trained,” Carlo Ancelotti said on Saturday. “He still feels a little unwell, it’s a small injury, but that won’t let him train and obviously he won’t play either.”
“The fact that he doesn’t play tomorrow doesn’t worry me because it means we will have two weeks to prepare him for the end of the season where he will be very important as always,” added Ancelotti.
Xavi says Benzema’s absence would be a ‘big blow’ for Real Madrid while confirming Gerard Pique will be available for Barca.
“He’s fine, he has a little discomfort, but he’s fine,” Xavi said.
Despite winning their last four league matches in a row, Barcelona are 15 points behind Real Madrid in the table, albeit one game less.
They could overhaul Sevilla as they stumble to finish second, but a late title charge seems nigh impossible.
“We can’t exclude Barcelona, they will fight until the last game,” Ancelotti said.
“Winning the league is unlikely,” Xavi said. “I think it will be difficult.”
But there is an opportunity for Barcelona to show they are ready to fight for the title again under Xavi next season.
“We have grown as a team since I arrived but that doesn’t mean anything, it’s a Clasico and we have to show our personality,” Xavi said.
“It’s a chance to show that we are in a good moment because we had good results but tomorrow is another litmus test, to prove that against another great team we can play and impose our game.”
Xavi added: “Otherwise I know the media and they will say the improvement was not seen in the most important game of the season.”