Lionel Messi says he wants Neymar Jr to return to the Camp Nou. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

BARCELONA  Barcelona star Lionel Messi wanted Neymar to leave Paris Saint-Germain and rejoin him at the Camp Nou this summer.

The Spanish champions tried to sign the Brazilian forward again, after he left in 2017 for a world record 222 million euro fee (252 million dollars), but could not reach a deal with PSG.

"I would have loved to have Neymar back," Messi told Spanish newspaper Diario Sport in an interview published on Thursday.

"I understand those people who are against his return and it's understandable for what happened with Ney and the way that he left. 

"But thinking about it on a sporting level, I personally think Neymar is one of the best players in the world and having him in our squad would increase our chances of achieving our objectives."

Messi, recovering from a calf injury, has not played for Barcelona yet this season, but is still making the headlines.

The Argentine number 10 reportedly has a unilateral clause which allows him to leave the club at the end of the season if he chooses.

"I can't confirm anything because there are confidentiality agreements in our contracts which means I can't say anything," said Messi.

"What I can say is that I want to be at Barcelona as long as possible. I've said throughout my career that this is my home.

"But I also don't want to have a long-term contract and only be here because of it. I want to be here because physically I'm fine, to play and be an important player."

dpa