Javier Zanetti's admission over Inter Milan's transfer move for Lionel Messi

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For much of Lionel Messi’s career, it felt like he would never leave Barcelona.

However, as an exit began to look possible, Paris Saint-Germain wasn’t always the only destination suggested for the Argentine.

Messi, who won a record seventh Ballon d’Or in 2021, was also linked with the likes of Manchester City and Inter Milan when it began to look as though he could move away from Camp Nou.

Ultimately, though, Paris would be where he ended up, completing a summer 2021 move despite revealing “I did all that I could to stay [at Barcelona], because I wanted to stay.”

And Javier Zanetti, who played with Messi at international level before taking up a vice-president role at Inter, has spoken about the links between his club and his compatriot.

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Javier Zanetti's admission over Inter Milan's transfer move for Lionel Messi
© AFP via Getty Images Messi broke down in tears when announcing he would be leaving Barcelona

Zanetti retired from international football in 2011 as Argentina’s most-capped player, with Javier Mascherano and Messi since overtaking his tally.

He represented Argentina at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, and also played more than 600 Serie A games for Inter before moving upstairs after his retirement.

However, despite the presence of Zanetti and Messi’s Argentina teammate Lautaro Martinez at the San Siro, the former full-back has revealed the club was never a realistic destination for the superstar.

“The truth is that we have never been close to signing him,” Zanetti told ESPN (via Football Italia ).

“After the pandemic, the club was in a complicated situation from an economic point of view. Furthermore, no one thought that Leo could really leave Barcelona, it was a surprise for everyone.”

Messi’s PSG move brought to an end his 21-year association with Barcelona, after he joined the club as a teenager, though he has said he could eventually be open to a return to his “home” in some capacity.

“What’s almost confirmed and certain is that we’ll return to Barcelona to live and our lives will be there,” he said.

“That’s what my wife and I want. I don’t know what’ll happen when my PSG contract ends, but we’ll go back to live in Barcelona.

Javier Zanetti's admission over Inter Milan's transfer move for Lionel Messi
© REUTERS Messi hasn’t been able to hit his Barcelona heights at PSG

Messi has scored just four goals for Paris Saint-Germain since his summer move, but still won the 2021 Ballon d’Or based in part on his achievements with Barcelona and Argentina.

He finished as top scorer at the 2021 Copa America as Argentina won the tournament for the first time since 1993, and that was enough for him to pip Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho to the individual award at November’s ceremony in Paris.

“I’m happy for him, I met him recently in Paris and hugged him,” Zanetti said.

“He wanted this moment more than anyone else and he deserved it.”

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