Lionel Messi’s admission that he considered leaving Barcelona in 2013 “scared” La Liga president Javier Tebas, but the door is now being left open for the likes of Neymar and Jose Mourinho to rejoin the mercurial Argentine in Spain.
A talismanic presence at Camp Nou has revealed that he contemplated making a move elsewhere after becoming caught up in a tax avoidance case.
Messi ultimately decided to stay put, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner remaining a one-club man to this point.
That is a relief to La Liga supremo Tebas, who admits losing such an iconic presence would have been unthinkable for the Spanish top-flight.
He told reporters at Cirque du Soleil’s Messi-inspired show: “We were never scared [that Messi would leave Spain] because we didn’t know what he was thinking.
“With [this week’s] interview, I got scared and [then] I was relieved to see that, just as well, he decided to stay. In this low moment, he decided to continue.
“I want to thank Messi for continuing in our league. If he feels down again, he shouldn’t have any doubts that we will support him and call him, that we will keep supporting him.”
Tebas believes Messi was unfairly treated when faced with tax fraud allegations and can sympathise with the Barcelona superstar.
He added: “I don’t think there was cruelty, but they were unfair with him as a physical person.
“It’s clear that he didn’t sign or didn’t read everything. They would tell him where to sign and he would do it.
“I don’t read all the La Liga contracts otherwise I’d be there all day.
“I’m convinced that it was an administrative issue and not criminal.”
With Messi now happy and fully focused on his football once more, Tebas is hoping to see more iconic figures join him in La Liga.
Spanish football lost Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in 2018, bringing to an end his domestic rivalry with Messi, but it could be that any number of other star names retrace their steps in the coming years.
Neymar has been heavily linked with a return to Barcelona from Paris Saint-Germain, while former Blaugrana and Real Madrid bosses Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have not ruled out further stints in Spain.
“Neymar, Mourinho, Guardiola… there’s room for everyone,” Tebas said.
“[Neymar] is at PSG and at the time the signing seemed unrealistic in this market and I think that the market still isn’t ready for it.”