Lionel Messi has agreed in principle to renew his contract with French giants Paris Saint-Germain, ending speculation that the Argentina captain could make a shock return to his former club Barcelona.
Earlier this week, Barca president Joan Laporta publicly declared that he "would love" Messi, who is out of contract in June after two years in France, to come back, adding the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner will always hold Barcelona in his heart.
But it has only been 16 months since Messi left the Spanish powerhouse, and according to multiple media outlets, the 35-year-old is set to remain in Paris for at least another year after leading Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar.
ESPN revealed that Messi's father Jorge will sit down for talks with PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi and sporting director Luis Campos in January when the Argentinian superstar returns from his 10-day break after the World Cup. Even though contracts details, including duration, wages or bonuses, have not been ironed out yet, there is an informal agreement that Messi will stay at PSG.
World-renowned Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, who has a close relationship with Messi and wrote the first authorized biography of the football icon, also claimed that Messi has reached an "agreement in principle" with PSG to sign a one-year deal with the option of another year.
"Messi is happy with it all and when back from his holidays the agreement will speed up," said Balague. "His life in Paris is balanced, happy, everybody is enjoying it and he has a real possibility of winning the Champions League again. Plus, it will help him be a candidate again for the Ballon d'Or."
Last month, reports emerged that Major League Soccer club Inter Miami CF were among the front-runners in signing Messi after the World Cup, but it is understood that Messi still wants to stay at the top of his game in Europe and PSG will also pledge to give him a competitive team to try to win more trophies.
Messi cemented his place in the pantheon of football's greatest legends after leading Argentina to their first World Cup triumph in 36 years. He had added football's most prestigious prize to a list of laurels that includes one Copa America, four UEFA Champions Leagues, 10 Spanish La Liga titles and a French Ligue 1 crown.
Meanwhile, Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, who currently leads the line for Barcelona, admitted that he would like to welcome the World Cup winner back in Spain one day and play with him.
"We see that now Messi plays more like a 'playmaker', maybe he scores fewer goals and gives more passes to his teammates although he continues to score them," he told reporters. "But compared to other times, he is now the footballer that any striker would dream of playing alongside him."
Lewandowski even suggested Messi could win an eighth Ballon d'Or next year. "There is only one World Cup that decides who is going to win it this season," he said. "And Leo [Messi] is now in the top position for sure because of what he has achieved which means everything to him. He now he can enjoy it."